Monday, November 21, 2011

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

The title says it all - what's not to love! My BFF in NC sent me this recipe link and I made it that night because it looked so amazing and I wanted to do a test run before Thanksgiving. Again with the cell phone pictures because I'm too lazy to break out the camera and take a nice shot, so I'm forgoing a picture of the food and posting one of me and my momma from years ago! Please do me one favor and MAKE YOUR CRUST! The pre-made graham cracker crust tastes like sawdust and a yummy homemade one is easy to whip up!  Now to get off the food topic for a minute.

This is the first Thanksgiving without my mom (December 1st will be the six month anniversary of her death) and it's proving to be a difficult time for me. The festivities do not hold the same magic they have in the past and I know my momma would not want it that way. However, it's hard...plain and simple. Gatlinburg, TN was my momma's favorite place on earth and a turn of events has landed us there for Thanksgiving weekend. I really felt God's hand in this situation because he gave me faith that I will see true joy again. For the first time in a long time, I felt that twinge of joy that had always been a part of me when I found out we'd be in's like I'll be with my momma in spirit because I know that's where her spirit is every day. My wish is that everyone holds the ones they love a little bit closer and takes the opportunity to get to know who their family really is. We all grow with age and those relatives who were a pain in the ass when we were young, aren't necessarily that way anymore. Get to know the family members in your life as they are today and truly embrace your relationship with them. I hope we all love a little more, forgive a little more, and appreciate what we have a little more staring right now while we have the opportunity.

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home found HERE


2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C butter, melted
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups chopped pecans
1 jar (12-1/4 ounces) caramel ice cream topping
Additional caramel ice cream topping, optional


Melt the butter in a bowl, and then stir in the graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Press graham cracker mix into a pie pine and up the sides as evenly as possible.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg and vanilla until smooth.  Spread into pastry shell; sprinkle with pecans.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining eggs; gradually whisk in caramel topping until blended. Pour slowly over pecans.

Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before slicing. If desired, garnish with additional caramel ice cream topping.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna Goodness

Mmmmmmm, mmmmm, great!  I've made this meal at least half a dozen times in the past three months and love it.  My husband, well he's not a convert yet from traditional lasagna noodles to other, healthier, options.  I really don't miss the noodles and actually prefer the squash to regular noodles.  I've made eggplant lasagna in the past and loved it, but this is even better than that!  I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as I do.

If this was the only meal I could ever eat again, I'd be okay with that! It has amazing flavor with the sweetness of the butternut and the tang of the tomatoes.  I've made this with pizza pork sausage, Italian sausage, and chicken sausage - none of them have disappointed me.  I recommend doubling the meat and sauce if your prefer a more meaty lasagna, but I like it just the way it is as I think the butternut squash and sausage balance each other very nicely. 

Deliciousness right here, folks!!

Paleo Butternut Squash from Health-Bent

1 lb hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
16 oz jar pizza sauce (I prefer Mid's)
1 roasted red peppers
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C couples leaves of fresh basil
1 small butternut squash

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Roast your red pepper by placing it on a cookie sheet and turning it until all sides are black and it's sort of collapsed into itself.  Then put in a bowl and cover with plastic which will allow for easier removal of the red pepper skin.  After about 15 minutes, remove plastic wrap and take the skin off of your peppers and pull out the seeds (if a few get left behind, no worries, they get processed)!

In a saute pan crumble the sausage and brown it, along with the onions & garlic. While that’s going, cut the top and ends of the squash off and peel it. Split it into 1/4′s. What I mean by that is, right where the squash starts to turn bulbous, cut it in 1/2, width-wise. Split those two halves in half, lengthwise. This will make it much easier to cut into planks. Pull out the seeds. Don’t be anal about getting out all the strings, as you won’t even notice those when they’re cooked. Slice the squash into the aforementioned planks.

Make the sauce by pureeing the pizza sauce, red peppers, olive oil and basil.

Using a 9×9 oven safe baking dish, put down enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. (This keeps the squash from sticking to the pan.) Next add the squash, trying not to overlap the pieces, then spoon on the sausage mixture, followed by the sauce. Repeat until all your ingredients are used up…trying to reserve enough sauce to cover the top of the lasagna.

Bake for 45 minutes. You’re looking for a bubbly pan with a crispy, browned top. Stick a fork into it to check your squash to make sure they are fork tender.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan Sorta

This super easy weeknight meal rocked! It was way better than I had imagined and much lighter than a traditional eggplant parmesan. I wanted eggplant parmesan, but I didn’t want the breaded fried goodness that comes with it, so I had a dilemma. Not really, but it makes this recipe sound way cooler. I am in love with Mezetta pasta sauce because it’s gluten free and free of some other junk that our bodies do not need on a regular basis. I love making my own pasta sauce, but some nights you need something bottled and quick. This dish reheated well for the next couple nights of dinner too!

Roasted Eggplant

1 Eggplant
Garlic Power
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Trim the ends of your eggplant off and stand it on one flat end to make it easy to cut the skin off. Slice the eggplant lengthwise and lay flat on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with garlic powder and black pepper. Pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and flip. The edges will start to turn a little brown and the eggplant will be tender.

Sausage Marinara Topper
1 lb. ground pork sausage (beef, chicken, or turkey could be subbed) 
1 Jar Mezetta Pasta Sauce (or your favorite, or a nice homemade sauce)
(Click HERE for a great semi-homemade sauce)

Brown the sausage until cooked through, then add the marinara. Cook until heated through.  Serve over roasted eggplant and let it melt in your mouth.

Here's a picture of the pasta sauce I used from the companies website


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Skillet Eggs with Squash

I hope everyone is enjoying a long holiday weekend as we celebrate America's birthday and our freedom!  I love the 4th of July for many reasons.  One, I love what it represents, two it was my grandmother's birthday (my momma's mom may she rest in peace, and lastly because we usually have a big ole' cookout.  This year we are foregoing the cookout, which bums me out but there has been way too much going on for us personally to do it this year.  I was hoping to get my dad over for marinated steaks on the 3rd (which are AWESOME), but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.  There's some strangeness going on since my momma's passing.  I suppose we are all forming a new normal, but I feel I need my dad more now than ever. So, tomorrow won't be as I want it to be, but it'll still be a great day.  I hope you all have a wonderful celebration of the USA!!

This recipe is courtesy of Food Network Magazine, July/August 2011.  It was absolutely delicious and I ate it all week long with it reheating very nicely.  I undercooked the eggs just slightly (except for the one egg I broke when placing it in the skillet), so when I reheated it the eggs wouldn't turn to rubber.  It worked out absolutely perfectly and some avocado smashed up was the perfect companion to this recipe.  Next time I will add some pancetta to it because it would add an excellent depth to the dish.  However, if I didn't have any pancetta on hand, I would not hesitate to make it as posted again.  The best thing was that I only used my cast iron skillet...who doesn't love having less dishes!

Skillet Eggs with Squash

6 medium zucchini
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used 1.5 T of dried parsley)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I did not use the butter as the original recipe did)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup grated pepper jack or sharp white cheddar cheese (I did not use the cheese)

Grate the squash into a colander using the large holes of a box grater (or use a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment). Toss with 1 tablespoon salt, then let drain in the sink, 30 to 40 minutes. Squeeze the squash to remove as much liquid as possible.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside 3 tablespoons of scallion greens. Add the remaining scallions (white and green parts), the jalapeno, and salt to taste and cook until the scallions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the shredded squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and let cool, 5 minutes.

Spread the squash evenly in the skillet. Make six 2 1/2-inch-wide indentations in the mixture with the back of a spoon; put 1/2 teaspoon of butter in each one. One at a time, crack each egg into a small bowl and pour into an indentation. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the cheese.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are cooked to desired doneness, 10 to 12 minutes. Scatter the reserved scallion greens on top.

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." ~ Pericles


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Scones

This delicious recipe comes from "The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook" by Elana Amsterdam, who also has a wonderful blog.  My husband loves pastries and could eat one every single morning for breakfast.  However, they aren't the best thing for you, so I found these tasty little gems that offer a great alternative.  Plus, if you eat a paleo lifestyle, this is a great treat! 

This is a basic recipe, but could be dressed up with some dried cherries, orange zest, raspberries, etc.  If you do not use agave, honey would be a great substitute!

Chocolate Chip Scones

.5 cups almond flour
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 C grapeseed oil
1/4 C agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 C chocolate Chips (I usually add more and I use Enjoy Life chips)

Preheat your oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine almond flour, baking soda, & salt in small bowl. In another medium bowl, beat together grapeseed oil, agave nectar, & eggs. Stir dry ingredients into wet and combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes before you drop them on the baking sheet. It allows them to thicken up, so they do not spread as much when baking them. They will puff up more then.  Drop by 1/4 C onto lined baking sheets & bake for 15 minutes or so, depending on your oven.  You can also roll into a ball then shape into a scone! Enjoy!

I have to stop taking pictures w/my cell phone!! This picture does not do the scones justice.  They were much more scrumptious looking!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sausage and Peppers

It has been some time since I posted and a lot has happened, but life is back on the upswing now.  My mom got unexpectedly ill and passed away 31 days after she went to the hospital the first time, from cancer.  Days are and will continue to be hard, but I have faith God will pull us all through this.  It's just my dad and me now.  Of course, the rest of our family, friends, and my husband too, but you all know what I mean.  :)  Words cannot explain the loss of a parent that you were very close too, but I feel blessed that we were so close.  Thankfully I'm just as close to my dad and we are able to share stories and memories.  He's doing pretty good, but I know it has to be more painful to go home to the house they shared without her there.

So, on to happiness! I had some ingredients around the house and threw a delicious dinner together.  I didn't time myself or measure very closely, so feel free to adjust as you see fit.

Sausage & Peppers
1 lb. pork sausage
1 each red, green, & yellow pepper
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
black pepper
splash red wine
olive oil

Clean your peppers and slice into fairly large pieces and quarter your onion seperating the layers. Chop your garlic cloves into small pieces.  When cutting your peppers, slice the top off and pull out the stem.  Save the pepper around the stem b/c it's still good!!

Heat 1T olive oil in a pan and brown your sausage on all sides.  Remove the browned sausage from the pan and set aside.  Deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine (a dry white would work too). Add the peppers, onions, and garlic to the pan and drizzle 2T olive oil over the veggie mixture, add more if needed.  Cook down until soft and starting to become translucent around the edges, which should be about 20 minutes or so, depending on how thick your pepper slices are.  While your peppers are cooking, slice your sausages on a diagonal or regular...the diagonal slice makes me feel like I'm eating at a restaurant.

After the pepper mix is cooked, add one can of fire roasted tomatoes and the sliced sausage.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens and the sausage finishes cooking.  This was a tasty and easy weeknight meal!  Enjoy!

Note:  You will probably notice that I did not add any salt.  I felt like the tomatoes and sausage contained enough salt that the cooking process didn't require anymore.

Here's a pic of the tomatoes:

My thought for the day is for my momma and anyone who has lost someone they love.

<><> <><>
    You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Dump Your Boyfriend Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes are AMAZING!! If you have any sorrows to drown or any celebrations, these are your cupcakes.

My husband and I love going to Barnes & Nobles and browsing cookbooks and magazines. Sometimes we take pictures of the recipes with our cell phones....GASP...instead of buying the book. That is where this delectable little recipe came from! So, we did not get a picture of the book cover and I am unable to share the source at this time. That definitely does not take away from the party in your mouth when you take a bite!!

I was very excited that I got the chance to display these cupcakes on the cupcake stand I made!  The project was super easy and turned out very cute. 


2 C all purpose flour
2 C sugar
½ C cocoa
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 C oil
1 C milk (please do not use skim; use at least 2%)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1 C hot water


½ C butter, softened
1 C creamy peanut butter
3 T hot water
2 C confectioners’ sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line your cupcake tins; makes around 22 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients.

Add oil, milk, vanilla, beaten eggs; blend well. Stir in hot water; mix well.
Fill lined cupcake tins using 1/3 cup measuring cup. Bake 22-25 minutes. Let cool.

For the frosting: blend the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and hot water (alternating) until desired texture is achieved.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Cheesecake and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

A picture is worth a thousand words and in some cases a thousand calories.  Cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie dough is a combination made in heaven!  The simplest recipes can be so delicious and that's the case with this recipe.  I have a confession to make - I used Pillsbury cookie dough and Ghirardelli chips!  I think there was a time when Nestle didn't melt the way I would have liked it and I've always found it to be "waxy" compared to Hershey's or other higher chocolate chips. 

Toll House Chocolate Cheesecake


1 pkg. (16.5 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or your favorite recipe
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate, melted
2 containers (8 oz. each) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, melted


PREHEAT oven to 375º F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

SLICE dough into 16 pieces. Cover bottom of prepared pan with pieces. Allow to soften for 5 to 10 minutes. Using fingertips, pat dough gently to cover bottom.

BAKE for 15 to 17 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

COMBINE cream cheese, sugar and melted chocolate in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add whipped topping; stir until just blended. Spoon over cookie crust; smooth top. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Cover; refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Remove sides of pan.

Grab a fork and dive in! This one is worth every single calorie - it's so tasty there is no guilt involved. 

Check out the following sites for some more sweet features:

Allie' n Son  - Sweet Tooth Friday

Sweet as Sugar Cookies - Sweets for Saturday #3


Monday, January 17, 2011

Green Chile Pork Stew

I stumbled across this delectable recipe and knew I had to make it!!  Every bite was savory and comforting, which is perfect for these cold winter days.  This was one of those dishes that make you sad when the last bit is all gone. The picture is a little yellow - we need to find a way to improve the lighting when we aren't taking pictures during the day in natural light!

 Green Chile Pork Stew
Adapted from Fete and Feast

1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz. fresh chorizo
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 lb. pork cutlets, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
½ tsp. pepper
1 c. chopped green chilies or 4 oz. can
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. yellow corn meal
4 Tbsp. water

Garnishes (optional)

Shredded cheese like Monterrey Jack, manchego, or Queso Asadero
Sliced green onions
Sliced jalapenos
Sour cream


Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until until hot.  Add the chopped fresh chorizo and saute until crispy.  Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and add the onions, carrots, and shallots to the oil in the pan.  Saute about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

Add the pork and saute for five minutes or until pork is no longer pink on the outside.  Add the chilies, oregano, and cumin to the pot; stir to combine.  Add the chorizo back in and the chicken broth; stir well.  Raise the heat to medium and bring the stew to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for one hour, or until the pork is tender.

Mix the corn meal and water together in a small bowl. Add to the pot and stir to combine.  Raise the heat to medium and bring the stew back to a boil. Cook for five minutes until it begins to thicken slightly.

Serve with garnishes and warm tortillas.

I was waiting for an opporunity to use the individual crocks I found at Crate and Barrel, so I spooned some stew into them and covered them with cheese.  I broiled them for a few minutes until the cheese was melted!