Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Berry Cheesecake Bars

Whom ever invented cheesecake is simply brilliant! Completely and honestly brilliant.  There are so many wonderful flavors and special additions that you can develop into a cheesecake.  It can be sweet or a savory.  No matter what the flavor it is always decadent and delicious. And a cheesecake is the perfect kind of cake to celebrate a special occasion - especially a 15th wedding anniversary! 

 Today we celebrate the beautiful Camilla Mann of the food blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla,  and her marriage to her beloved hubby of 15 blissful years with all things CHEESECAKE.  26 of us passionate food bloggers have gotten together and brain-stormed, created and baked to our little hearts content all things CHEESECAKE.  Sweet ones, salty ones, mini and large are all being featured together in unison to honor and rejoice over the Mann's 15 years of marriage.  The Mann's really like cheesecake.  Can you blame them?! I can't. 

I made a batch of Berry Cheesecake Bars just for today's event. I love the taste of berries and cheesecake served together so I was delighted to find this recipe which bakes berries right into the cheesecake.   Instead of making a cheesecake in the traditional form using a spring form pan, this recipe is created into bars using a 9x13 pan.   The crust is made out of a delicious mixture of flour, sugar, rolled oats and butter.  Simple ingredients coming together to make a wonderful foundation for these bars.  The filling only requires 2, 8oz. blocks of cream cheese compared to the normal 3-4 blocks in a spring form size cake.  And you can choose to add in lemon juice to provide a fresh tartness to the bars or opt out of such an addition. Completely up to you!  The berries that you use in this recipe can be fresh or frozen - it all depends on what is available to you and your preference.

I present to you a wonderful recipe for cheesecake bars packed with berries and full of delicious-ness.  Happy 15th Camilla and Jake!  Wishing you both many, many more years to come of your beautiful marriage along side an abundance of CHEESECAKES!! :-)

Berry Cheesecake Bars 
      (recipe from Beauty and Bedlam)

Crust ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup salted butter, melted 

Filling ingredients:
(2) 8oz. blocks cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour  
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice - optional
2-4 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.  Prepare crust - in a large bowl combine crust ingredients -  flour, sugar, rolled oats and baking powder.  Mix well all together.  Pour in melted butter and carefully stir all together.  

Gently press crust mixture evenly into prepared pan with a plastic baggie over your hand (the baggie prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands).  Bake crust for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cool crust for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 325.

Sprinkle berries evenly over cooled crust.  Make filling by beating softened cream cheese until light and creamy in a large bowl.  Add in sugar and 2 Tbsp flour. Beat well all together. 

Add in eggs, one at a time - beating well with each addition.  Add in vanilla extract and lemon juice.  Once all has been mixed well together pour filling mixture over berry layer and place into 325 oven.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted into middle comes out clean and center feels firm to the touch.  

Cool cheesecake for 2 hours before placing in refrigerator to continue to cool for at least 3 more hours.   Cut into bars and serve.  Enjoy!! 

Happy Berry Cheesecake Bars Baking! 

Berry Cheesecake Bars by Baking and Creating with Avril
Cherry Cheesecake Bites by Cookaholic Wife
Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake by Dancing Veggies
Chocolate Cheesecake by My Hobbie Lobbie
Chocolate Topped Peppermint Cheesecake by Amy's Cooking Adventures
Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars by Tara's Multicultural Table
Easter Basket Mini Cheesecakes by Little Bit of Everything
Everyday Cheesecake by Things I Make (for Dinner)
Irish Cream Cheesecake by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Layered Cinnamon Streusel Cheesecake Cake by Famished Fish, Finicky Shark
Lowfat Blackberry Cheesecake by A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
Matcha-YuzuCheesecake with a Meyer Lemon Gelée by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Mini Churro Caramel Cheesecake by Cheese Curd In Paradise
Mini Maple Pecan Cheesecakes by Join Us, Pull up a Chair
Mom's New York Cheesecake by Taste Cook Sip
Mudslide Cheesecake by Sew You Think You Can Cook
{No Bake} Marshmallow Cheesecake by An Affair from the Heart
No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake by Angels Homestead
Samoa's cheesecake by Goodie Godmother
Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars by The Savvy Kitchen
Sopapilla Puff Pastry Cheesecake by Pink Cake Plate
Skinny Vanilla Bean Cheesecake by Renee's Kitchen Adventures
Twix Cheesecake Brownie Torte by Making Memories With Your Kids

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Apple Pear Pie with A Crumble Topping for PIE DAY!

Hip! Hip! Hooray! Today is Pi(e) Day!!! All things PIE are celebrated today as the date 3.14 marks the beginning of a very famous number called "Pi" (3.141592653).  Bakers every where rejoice as this day of "Pi" gives us all the freedom to create, master and enjoy the delicious existence of PIE.  A group of such bakers (including myself) have gotten together to gather a collection of a variety of recipes which feature and honor PIE for all of you out there that also LOVE and ADORE pie just like we do! A HUGE bundle of gratitude goes out to Terry of Love and Confections for organizing this fantastic group of bakers to come together with all things PIE for this fabulous holiday of all holidays. You are fantastic Terry for orchestrating all of us! Please be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see the list of links to all the delicious pies our group has baked up for this very special, special day.

  I choose to bake an Apple Pear Pie with Crumble Topping.  Apples and pears make up the filling along with just enough sugar to sweeten the fruit along with sprinkling of cinnamon and then topped with a tender crumble of butter, sugar and flour. A master piece of a pie.

This particular pie was developed from a vision of mine for the perfect pie.  I wanted it to have a delicate and flaky crust which was then filled with sweet yet slightly tart fruits of apples and pears and then crowned with a lovely tender and crumbly topping.  After combining 3 different recipes together I was able to create my dream of a pie.  Life is good.  Or even better, "life is Pie-LICIOUS"! :-) 

I used Ina Garten's Perfect Pie Crust recipe for my pie crust (which is flaky, delicious and fool proof) and then I used the two recipes below to complete my lovely pie of all pies. I was quite delighted with the end result.

Apple Pear Pie with Crumble Topping

Filling Ingredients
(slightly adapted from Taste of Home)
3-4 large baking apples - peeled, cored and sliced
3 large ripe pears - peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Crumble Topping Ingredients - 
(slightly adapted from Bourbon and Boots)
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes

Prepare a single pie crust using a recipe of your choice or even a store-brought crust is fine too.   Line a pie plate with said crust and place in refrigerator while you prepare the filling and topping.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine all of the filling ingredients - gently toss together to incorporate fully. Set filling mixture aside as you prepare the crumble topping. 

In a medium bowl combine flour and sugar.  Using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, cut butter cubes into the flour and sugar until the butter is pea sized and uniform.  

Pour filling mixture into prepared pie shell and then carefully spoon topping over the fruit evenly.  Place pie onto a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes or until pie is golden brown and filling is bubbly.  If the pie crust edge looks like it is getting too dark, cover the edge with a piece of tin foil.

Cool pie for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream always goes well with this pie. 

Happy Apple Pear Pie with Crumble Topping Baking!
Welcome to Pi(e) Day hosted by Terri from Love and Confections! Pi Day is celebrated every March 14 by math fans around the world - and also bakers and pastry chefs. Pi is an non-repeating, infinite number represented by the Greek letter π, and used to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Today, March 14, 2015, is an extra special Pi Day, because at 9:26:53 AM it creates the "Pi Moment of the Century". The first ten digits of Pi are 3.141592653 (3/14/15, 9:26 AM and 53 seconds). This exact date and time happens once every hundred years - a once in a lifetime moment for most of us. How cool is that? Today, 20 Food Bloggers have gathered and want to celebrate the fun of Pi by creating their own sweet and savory pies to share with you. Hope you have a delicious day!

Enjoy a slice from the Pi(e) Day Bloggers:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

(Healthier than McD's) Shamrock Shake

In our house we always enjoy a good holiday.  St Patrick's Day is no exception.  There may not be a drop of Irish blood in our family history but how can one resist dressing in green, building lepracaun traps and crafting colorful rainbows with piles of gold at the end of them all in an effort to drink up all that this holiday offers us. In the kitchen I love making the one pot meal of a boiled dinner and then treating everyone to a tray of Shamrock Shakes from McD's.  Goodness those shakes are just so yummy! 

This year I decided to try my hand at making my own Shamrock Shakes instead of the full-of-who-knows-what green and minty shakes from McD's.  And guess what ladies and gents, I had success!  Not only did I create a scrumptious shake that appealed to my girls and had them asking for more but it was also MUCH healthier than the shakes I served them in previous years.  What happiness for me! 

I used a frozen banana and a couple cubes of ice to make the shake thick and then I added in some almond milk, a couple drops of green food coloring and 2 drops mint extract (be SO careful when adding this into your mixture as you don't want to add too much or else the shake will taste just like toothpaste...yuck). I also dropped in a Thin Mint girl scout cookie because a cookie added into anything is just plain old fun.  At the last minute, before I put the lid onto the container of my Nutribullet, I added in 2 scoops of good vanilla ice cream.  I just had to! - I honestly feel like the shake would just not be festive without ice cream.  Oh yes, as you have seen, whipped cream and a cookie on top was also a necessity for my shakes.  REMINDER: this shake is "healthier" not "healthiest" by my standards.

I had so much fun making this recipe as I got to play around with making the drinks pretty.  Delicious and pretty drinks go far in my book.  I only wish I had gently placed a cherry on top of my mounds of fluffy white whipped cream too.  Next time for sure. 

Wishing all of you (Irish or not) a VERY Happy St. Patrick's Day.  May it be full of luck and mischief, lots of beautiful green attire and many a "Healthier" Shamrock Shake.

"Healthier" Shamrock Shake 
recipe makes 1-2 servings, depending on your glass size

1 frozen banana
3-4 ice cubes
1 1/2 cups almond milk or milk of your choice
3 drops green food coloring
2 drops mint extract
2 scoops good vanilla ice cream (meaning ice cream that contains only 5-6 ingredients - said ingredients need to be those that you can read and recognize too)
1 Thin Mint cookie + a few more for garnish
whipped cream, freshly beaten or from a can
cherries - for garnish (as you don't want to forget them like I did)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender or a Nutribullet and blend well for about 20-25 seconds. Shake will be smooth and thick when done.  Pour into glasses and garnish with whipped cream, cookies and cherries.  Enjoy!

Happy "Healthier" Shamrock Shake Making!

Monday, March 2, 2015

(SRC) Chicken Parm Soup

Chicken Parmesan has always been one of my favorites.  I have ordered it many a time as an entree and even as a sandwich. I have also made it quite frequently for my family and friends using this recipe. Up until yesterday I had never made it as a soup.  And since yesterday,  Chicken Parm Soup is ALL I have eaten.  I ate it for dinner, brunch the next day, lunch and yes, now as I type I have a lovely bowl next to me as a snack. It is beyond delicious.  Would you like a taste? How about the recipe?  Well, not to worry as I will share it with you just like the lovely Elizabeth from Food Ramblings shared it with me. 

I recently met Elizabeth through my March assignment for the Secret Recipe Club.  As soon as I clicked onto Food Ramblings I knew I was going to love every minute of my assignment.  Elizabeth has created a beautiful blog that is delicious, welcoming and absolutely appealing to the eye.  She has a fantastic assortment of recipes - all of which are organized with care.  I began my search for a recipe to make this month by clicking on her "DESSERTS" (no surprise there!).  I drooled over her Peanut Butter Whoppie Pies along with her Cookie Butter Banana Bread but then decided it best that I make something with chicken as I had quite a bit of it in the freezer that needed to be used.  With chicken in mind I browsed through Elizabeth's "Chicken" recipes and discovered Chicken Parm Soup. Delighted that I had everything on hand to make this soup, including a slow cooker, I measured, chopped, sprinkled and poured all the ingredients into my crock pot, pushed the necessary buttons and walked away.  4 hours later my house smelled delicious! The soup was ready and so were the tummies of my family.  Dinner was served with happiness! 

In the above three pictures you may have noticed the bread on the side of the plate.  Because I couldn't get the idea of making banana bread with Cookie Butter (from Trader Joe's) I also baked up a couple loaves of Cookie Butter Banana Bread.  If you would like to do the same you can find the 
recipe here.

In the meantime the recipe for Chicken Parm Soup can be found right here....

Chicken Parm Soup
(recipe from Food Ramblings)

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, raw and defrosted
1 onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp chopped basil + more for garnish
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese + more for garnish 
4 oz. pasta or rice of your choice (I used orzo) 
salt and pepper to taste  

Place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker except for the pasta.  Cook on high for 3.5 hrs or low for 6 hours. Shred the cooked chicken breasts and put back into soup along with dried pasta or rice.  Cook for another 1/2 hour or until pasta is cooked fully.  Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil if you wish. Enjoy!! 

Happy Chicken Parm Soup Making!

Friday, February 27, 2015

(EASY) Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup

  Winter is really giving us something to talk about this year here in lovely New Hampshire.  It is COLD outside. There is a @#%^ ton of SNOW every where you look. And there is even icicles hanging from any possible place they can hang from. It is just hard core Winter time.  That is that.  All we can do it complain, pretend to like it, bundle up, lather on lots of lotion to remedy our dry skin, crank up the humidifiers and eat LOTS of soup.  We have to survive it some how! 

 Split Pea and Ham Soup has always been a favorite of mine.  It is delicious, filling and plain old comforting. Believe it or not this was the first time I ever made it.  I have made many a soup in my adventures in the kitchen but not a split pea soup.  I was delighted with this recipe as it is super simple,  foul proof (especially if you follow the directions) and can easily be adjusted to your liking.  If you don't like carrots go ahead an omit them - just add in more of another veggie.  If you wish to keep the soup vegetarian no worries - use vegetable bouillon instead of chicken and replace the ham meat with more vegetables.   I chose to make my broth with a nice big meaty ham bone.  I placed the ham bone in a large pot and covered it with good water (such as filtered or spring water).  I then brought the water to a nice gentle boil and then simmered it for about an hour to get all the flavor possible out of the bone.  Bones truly do give off the best flavor for a broth in my opinion. If you would like to keep things super simple for this soup go ahead and skip the ham bone and toss in some nice bouillon cubes of your choice into good water. 

So please,  join me in warming your bones and embracing the rest of this looooong WINTER to the fullest and make a pot of this soup.  Your bones will be happy as will your tummy.

Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup
(recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home)

*1 large meaty ham bone
good water (spring or filtered) - enough to cover bone completely plus more to make 8 full cups
1 16oz. bag or 2 cups dried split peas
2 medium onions - chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 cups chopped ham
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 chicken bouillon cubes (6 cubes if you don't use a ham bone to make the broth)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish/topping


*If want to make your broth with the ham bone* - place ham bone in a large pot and cover with good water. Bring to a gentle boil and then lower heat to simmer for another 30-60 minutes.  Remove bone from water and set aside to cool. Once bone is cool enough to handle cut off any meat that is not too fatty and add to soup.  Measure broth and then add in additional water to make 8 cups of liquid. ~ If you chose not to make your broth with a bone just add in 8 cups of water and 6 bouillon cubes along with the rest of the ingredients of the soup ~

Pour the 8 cups of liquid back into your large pot along with all the remaining ingredients.  Stir well and bring to boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook soup for at least 1 hour or until all veggies are tender and soup is thick. Adjust seasoning if you wish and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a piece of yummy bread on the side.  Enjoy! 

 Happy Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup Making!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Italian Orange Almond Cake

To me, there is no better feeling than happiness.  Happiness makes my skin tingle, my smile grow so big it makes my cheeks hurt and my eyes to tear in elation.  Happiness is such a wonderful emotion.  And it's the simple things in life that brings me to happiness; the laughter of my girls, biting into a fresh sweet peach, walking along the beach and having the feeling of the warm grainy sand on my feet or curling up into the sun for an afternoon nap.  simple yet meaningful experiences in life bring me happiness.  

Baking also makes me happy (no surprise there!). One of the biggest reasons baking makes me happy is that I can take a handful of the simplest ingredients and create the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth sweet. This Italian Orange Almond Cake is the perfect example of such a creation.  Simple, simple ingredients formed into a deliciously amazing cake.  If possible I would've burst with happiness as I made this cake.  I blame the beautiful, Francesca for my immense happiness as this recipe came from her blog, Della Cucina Povera.  I was assigned to Della Cucina Povera via the Secret Recipe Club this month. I loved and treasured every moment of this assignment. Francesca has a collection of recipes that are deliciously beautiful.  She has a true talent in the kitchen with all the food she puts on her table.  I plan on making the Greek Stuffed Tomatoes along with Creamy Broccoli and Cannellini Soup
that have both caught my eye.

I chose to bake Francesca's recipe for Italian Orange Almond Cake not only because it featured simple ingredients that I had on hand but also because the technique to make it fascinated me. The whole batter is made in a food processor (LOVE it!) which is perfect as 2 whole oranges that have been cooked and cut up into chunks are added into the batter.  Mixing the batter in the food processor allows for everything to come together smoothly.   Almond meal and eggs will hold everything together giving the final outcome a dense texture that is deliciously exotic.   It's truly a very special cake. 

Italian Orange Almond Cake 
            (recipe from Della Cucina Provera)


2 whole oranges
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
powdered sugar and grated orange rind  for garnish


1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a gentle boil.  Add in the whole oranges and cook at a gentle boil for 1 hour - add in more water if needed as the water will evaporate as it the oranges cook.  After an hour remove the oranges from the water and cool completely.

2. In a food processor pulse together the sugars. Add in the eggs. Mix well all together until light and fluffy.  Add in almond flour/meal and baking powder. Again mixing well all together.

3. Cut up the cooked oranges into chunks.  Remove seeds if you find any. Place orange chunks into batter and process for a good 1-2 minutes or until batter is smooth with no large chunks remain.  Pour batter into a well greased 9 " round cake pan that is lined with parchment paper on the bottom.

4. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting cake onto serving plate. Serve and enjoy! 

Happy Italian Orange Almond Cake Baking!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Decadent SKINNY Chocolate Cake

In my world opposites quit frequently attract.  Loud noises make me crave quietness.  Dark rooms usually suggest providing some light into the room. Cold floors make me want to have warm socks on my feet. And wanting to loose weight usually makes me search out chocolate night and day.  Yup, opposites do attract for me.  As we come out of the holidays into the NEW year I feel a strong tug towards shedding those extra "Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's pounds" yet all I can do keep myself from eating chocolate is maddening.  Chocolate is mouthwatering.  It's comfort food to me.  It just tastes so good! Yet my clothes feel a bit tighter than they did back in the beginning of November before all the holidays kicked into full swing deliciousness.  Thus my ambition to make better food choices at meal and snack times has been a constant priority.  And well, chocolate at every meal and snack really should just NOT happen.  It won't help my pants from feeling snug.  My brain knows this but does my taste buds and will power know this too? Goodness it better, real fast.  And SOON!!

Recently my world of opposites came to a happy, happy place.  Through my January assignment on the Secret Recipe Club I discovered a fantastic recipe for chocolaty chocolate, decadently decadent CHOCOLATE cake on the blog, Burnt Apple. Oh yes, a cake full of sinful chocolate yet NOT full of fat.  My pants still fit nicely even after eating a piece of this cake! And my need for chocolate was completely satisfied too! The best. 

Burnt Apple is a treasure of a blog as it is packed with many, many recipes that are delicious in taste yet conscious and brilliantly altered to have a healthy make-over.  The ingredients used in the recipes are budget friendly for families of all sizes too.  I have my eyes on a couple more recipes from Burnt Apple such as the Whole Grain "Sour Cream" Coffee Cake Bread and the Pear Walnut Waffles.

For this cake,  plain Greek yogurt and unsweetened apple sauce help reduce the usual amount of fat found in a good chocolate cake.  The addition of hot coffee helps enhance all of the chocolate flavor in the unsweetened powdered cocoa and mini chocolate chips.  As suggested in the original recipe I chose to finish off my cake with a lovely chocolate ganache poured on top of it.  This cake is truly a decadent treat even if the fat and calories are less than in a normal chocolate cake.  I will definitely make this cake again when my chocolate cravings take over my will power of super powers.  

Skinny Chocolate Cake 
         (Recipe from Burnt Apple)


For the cake - 
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract 
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce  
1 1/4 cups HOT coffee (milk or hot water can be substituted in place of coffee if you wish) 
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips 

For the chocolate ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips - dark, milk or semi-sweet is great
1/2 cup heavy cream - 1/4 cup of milk can be used (I used 1/2 cup of half and half with success) 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the unsweetened cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar making sure all are incorporated well.

Mix eggs, yogurt, applesauce in a medium bowl and then pour into dry mixture.  Stir to incorporate and then add in hot coffee.  Stir well all together.  Add in mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool cake and then invert onto a serving platter.  

While cake cools make chocolate ganache. Pour chocolate chips into a medium size bowl.   In a small sauce pan heat cream (or milk) to a gentle simmer.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and then stir together carefully with a rubber spatula.  Mixture will thicken as the chocolate melts into the cream.  It's really magic in a bowl.  Pour ganache over cake.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips if you wish.  Serve and enjoy to the fullest.

Happy Skinny Chocolate Cake Baking!


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