Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Churro/Cinnamon Bun Cheesecakes

Okay. So, I admit, this is a strange sounding recipe. And no, I still don't eat cheesecake. But, I just bought a new hand mixer (for $8.68 at Target, what a deal!), and I needed an excuse to use it. Plus we are having an office mini-golf game tomorrow, and apparently our designated hole to design was designated the "Disney/food" hole. There is also going to be popcorn. Ahhhh the memories of Disneyland, the smells of fresh churros.. MMM.. 

Okay, back to reality. Can't go to Disneyland in a day, since it's 1,179 miles away and all, but this will come close. Well, for people who eat cheesecake at least.. I hope.. 

This is another recipe that was not really a recipe to begin with. Believe me, I tried to find a "churro cheesecake" recipe, and the only thing I found really was either cheesecake with burnt cinnamon/sugar croissants on top, or cheesecake-filled churro-style pastries. I'm partial to mini cheesecakes. At least making them. Not eating them. So. I made a recipe up. The last time I tried this, with my Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake, it turned out pretty good. Call my ego boosted, I'm just hoping it's not OVER boosted. 

In case anyone wonders, I write the first part of these blogs while I'm passing the time between batches. I have a tendency to get really impatient and check on things in the oven way too often. So, all this droning is just me making myself be patient. So, be patient with me. 

Ready for the recipe? Here we go, kids!


1 1/2 cup Nilla wafers
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp melted butter/margarine

3 pkgs cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick of butter/margarine (4 tbsp), softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground cinnamon/sugar (I have a grinder that I bought in the spice aisle)

Preheat oven to 350º. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack.

In a food processor, crush Nilla wafers. Add sugar and cinnamon, mix until blended, then add butter slowly while the food processor is running, mix until blended. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream cream cheese. Add sugar, vanilla and butter, mix until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until just blended after each. Add cinnamon and barely mix. You'll want swirls of it, if possible. If you don't have or can't find a cinnamon/sugar grinder, don't worry about it. Just add an extra dash of cinnamon, and it should be fine. 

Line a mini-muffin pan with liners. This recipe makes about 60 "bite-size" cheesecakes. 

Place about a teaspoon of crust mixture in the bottom of each liner, press down until lightly compacted. 

Fill the rest of the cup with 1 tbsp of filling. The cups will be very full. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until set. They will be puffed on top at first, then settle down.

You can probably just serve these plain, but since when am I a plain person? Uh. Oh. Most of the time. Scratch that comment. Okay. I've decided to be fancy with these. Mix a can of cream cheese frosting (because what other kind would you use on cheesecakes?) with some cinnamon, about 1-2 tsp. Just swirl. No need to go nuts with stirring. Put a dollop on top of each cake once they are cooled. Sprinkle with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. 

Sorry, I know, not the best lighting, but at least I've got a camera that works now! That's an improvement. Baby steps, folks. 

These will be coming to work with me tomorrow, and I'll post reviews then. I'm a bit skeptical of these, but we'll see what the foodies say. 


These turned out tasting a bit more like cinnamon buns than churros, so our fix was to get a Costco churro and place little bits on top of each cheesecake, like so. (Sorry for the poor picture, it was a last minute thought before I let the vultures get to them at work.)

If you don't have the urge to have a hunk of fried diabetic carb-filled coma on top, you can leave as is, and just call them "cinnamon bun cheesecakes". LOL. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mint Nanaimo Bars

When I was growing up, there was a bakery in town that also did breakfast. We went for breakfast quite a bit, they had the BEST coffee can sourdough biscuits and gravy. Great, now that I brought those up, I'm totally craving some, which really sucks since the bakery went under about 7 years ago.. Anyways. The only other reason we went there? NANAIMO BARS. They were heaven, and they opened up my eyes to others. I've still never run across any others that were as good, but I admit, I was spoiled with these. Thankfully, living so close to the border (these bars originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, here's the original story on their history if you're interested), these delicacies are everywhere. I can find them at my local grocery stores in the bakery. Again, not nearly as good as the originals I fell in love with, but definitely an okay substitute.

So, when I first found the recipe to try to make these myself, I admit, I was skeptical. I actually looked up probably half a dozen different recipes to make sure I wasn't looking at some obscure version. The bottom layer contains walnuts AND coconut. I'm really not a fan of nuts (except peanuts and cashews, and very occasionally). I absolutely refuse to put nuts in anything. These however are an exception. I found by researching it online that it just doesn't work to not put nuts in these. Ready? Go!


Crust:1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Middle Layer Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp peppermint flavor
4 drops of green food coloring

Top Layer Ingredients
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter


1. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder.
2. Once melted, mix in the beaten egg.
3. Add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, vanilla, and walnuts. Stir until combined.
4. Line a 9 x 9 baking pan with parchment paper. Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the pan. Place in the fridge and let cool.

5. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar, with a hand mixer, until light and fluffy.
6. Add the milk one tbsp at a time. Next, add the peppermint and food coloring and beat until light and fluffy.
7. Spread onto the crust layer and refrigerate for 20 more minutes.

8. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Pour on top the middle layer, tipping the pan back and forth, ensuring an even layer of chocolate.

9. Place the nanaimo bars in the fridge for 30 minutes and serve cold. 

So, you can do like the recipe says (I was far too lazy to actually type it all out tonight, if you want the original page, it's here), or you can just throw everything together, layer by layer like I did. I can't even think anymore.. See that piece on top in the last picture? It's gone. VERY gone. And all I can think about right now is the rest of it sitting on my stove. (These should be refrigerated, by the way. Should they last long enough at least..)

I will leave you with these wonderful pictures to drool over, and.. and... OH GOD I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING BUT ANOTHER ONE. 

Oh, if you wanted to make the traditional vanilla version, omit mint extract and food coloring, add 3 tbsp vanilla pudding mix. There, I at least got that much in. I will post pictures of those when I get there. And I will.. eventually.. But first.. The rest of the pan is calling my name.. 


**Long overdue update: the vanilla version!**

I'm also going to be making a lemon version, in which I put 2 tbsp vanilla pudding mix and 1 tsp lemon extract in the filling in place of the 3 tbsp vanilla pudding mix. YYUUMMM!! Maybe I'll even add a couple of drops of yellow food coloring to make it more "spring". 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crock Pot Jambalaya

Everyone has their "comfort food" that they remember from their childhood. Mine was my dad's jamabalaya. His was a very intensive 2 day long version (or all day if he started early enough). Me? I don't have the time nor patience for it. I've made it once, but I just can't do it all the time. It dawned on me recently though that instead of making my own chicken stock, I CAN use premade stuff, and why not just throw it in the crock pot to let it do the work itself? Sounds like a plan to me! I used different veggies than I remember when I was a kid, but there isn't really a set veggie combo that you need to stick to, just whatever strikes your fancy (or is on sale!). Here's my version!


3-4 smallish carrots (or maybe 1-2 large? I used organic "rainbow" carrots in mine for fun)
1 whole green bell pepper
1/2 large onion (or a whole if you're an onion person)
1lb good smoked sausage (I use Fletcher's double smoked)
1/2 - 1 lb chicken breast
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp creole/cajun seasoning (I actually used the Famous Dave's seasoning, close enough, right?)
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp minced garlic (dried) or 1 tsp minced garlic (fresh)
2-3 cups uncooked rice


There is no specific size to chop your vegetables. I like mine a bit smaller, so I chopped all of my vegetables to around 1/2" to 1" size. Once rinsed and chopped, throw the veggies into the crock pot. Chop the sausage and chicken next. The sausage I chopped into quarters, then into about 1/2" pieces. Again, it's all a matter of preference. The chicken breast I chopped into about 1" pieces. Toss the meat in the crock pot next, then toss all the ingredients to mix them. Next, add the rest of the ingredients, minus the rice. If you are using regular rice (not the instant kind), you could probably throw it in right away. If you are using instant rice, wait until about an hour before serving (or maybe 2 if you've got it set to low), otherwise you will wind up with a mushy mess. A very tasty, mushy mess. 

Unfortunately, this isn't one of those "set it and go" type crock pot dishes if you put the rice in right away. Once that gets put in, it needs to be stirred at least every hour or so to make sure it isn't burning to the bottom. If you throw everything else in though right away, then the instant rice an hour or two before serving, you should be okay. 

Cook on high for 3-5 hours, or low for 7-9 hours.

-You could add some baby shrimp towards the end, maybe 15 or 20 minutes before it's ready? Could also add some lump crab meat.

This turned out just like I remember my dad's, and I didn't slave in a hot kitchen for a day or more to make it. My husband had family over when I made this, and they tried it, though skeptical, and decided that it was surprisingly delicious and went back for more. I had far more of it than I probably should have too.. SO worth it though! 

Applesauce Muffins

It's been far too long since I baked something. A whole week! Given, part of it is because I've been trying to be good and make sure that at least most of what I made last weekend was gone first. While browsing the web tonight, I found a recipe for applesauce muffins. I've been searching for a good way to use up the Costco case of applesauce I bought awhile back, and muffins are such an easy breakfast. I knew I had to make some NOW. The original recipe came from the Wilton website, and there wasn't much I had to alter! 

Some variations could include substituting a cup of the regular flour for a cup of whole wheat flour. You could also add some dried oats, chocolate chips, bananas, raisins.. The possibilities are endless. I've made this version, along with the variations below. 


1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup applesauce 
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 375º. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper liners, set aside. 

Whisk together eggs and brown sugar until well combined and fluffy. Add vanilla, butter and applesauce and mix until well combined. 

Dump flour, soda, baking powder, spices and salt on top of wet ingredients, mix lightly with a whisk or your fingers, then combine gently with wet ingredients. 

Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full with batter. This made 23 muffins for me, the original recipe says it should only be 12, but I'm not complaining. The more the merrier! 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a knife/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and tops are golden brown. 

-Substitute one cup of whole wheat flour in place of one cup of regular flour. 
-Add one cup of oats
-Add one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Look at the oozy goodness!

(I did all of the above variations in the same batch, but you can definitely do them separately!)

Now, the original recipe says that you can add raisins to this, but why would you want to spoil them? I'm not a big fan of raisins myself, and neither are my kids (which is exactly why I've got a box of raisins sitting in my pantry that I bought close to a year ago..). Because of the applesauce in them, these are incredibly moist muffins, and a bit sticky, but wonderful. I had a problem with them sticking to the bottom of the muffin liner, but it wasn't really a big problem. 

Pictures to come soon. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Southern Style Banana Bread

This was a recipe that was originally out of my mom's southern cook book. Of course, I can't leave things as is, but this one is only slightly different than the original version. Mostly because I can't resist adding cinnamon and vanilla to baked goods. Since I've got a migraine that would kill an elephant today, and I've still got to get a batch of molasses cookies in for my baby brother's birthday tomorrow, I'd better get right to things. 


2 cups well-mashed overripe bananas (about 3 large)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1-2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp buttermilk (or 3 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp white vinegar, mixed, and left sitting for 1 hr)


Preheat oven to either 350º for loaves or 300º for muffins.

Combine bananas, sugar, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Gradually add the butter and mix well. Stir in the flour, soda and cinnamon until well mixed and creamy. Stir in the buttermilk. 

Spoon the mixture into muffin cups or a loaf pan. This will make 2 loaves or 1 dozen muffins according to the original recipe. I wouldn't know for sure, since I've never actually made a single batch. 

Bake the bread for 30 minutes at 350º, then lower temperature to 300º for another 45-65 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Bake the muffins for 65 minutes at 300º, or until a knife inserted in the center of one comes out clean. 

These get a wonderful caramelized crust on top, and they're perfect for an on the go breakfast. 

I will also share a bit of a secret with you. I DESPISE bananas. I loathe them. I gag when I peel one for my kids. These though? HEAVEN. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Norwegian Butter Cookies

Once in awhile, someone finds a recipe, thinks it sounds delicious, and hands it to me. Talk about dropping hints. This one though, my grandmother handed me, so I can't really ignore it. Not because it was HER recipe, she doesn't cook, but she had gotten it off of the back of a bag of C&H sugar and decided it sounded good. And she doesn't cook. Who does? Oh, that's right. Her granddaughter. *sigh* She really had to twist my arm on this one. I mean, 3/4 of a pound of butter, sugar and flour? Yeah, that's essentially it. Yep. I don't make things that involve butter, do I? Just kidding. I was ecstatic when I saw these. Especially considering that in my family, Norwegian stuff is a big thing, considering we're Norwegian and all. Norwegian AND lots of butter.. Yep. Sounds good to me! 

So, to make these, the recipe says to use a cookie press or a pastry bag with a large star tip. Neither of which I have. Who's the queen of improvisational baking? ME! That being said, not all of my ideas are 100% genius, some are only 100% genius in thought.. For instance, if you want to roll these in powdered sugar before baking because you have nothing to sift powdered sugar over the top, make sure that you grease the baking sheet before baking. The powdered sugar WILL essentially glue the cookies to the baking sheet. Now. Onto the successes of this recipe!

Yes. They look plain, and they ARE kind of plain, but really, what's better than BUTTER AND SUGAR?! It's the Norwegian way to be simple. And it works! 


3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 375º.

Cream butter in a bowl. If you find a hand mixer in a cupboard that you forgot you had, make sure it has a "low" setting before you attempt this. Because I didn't. These are probably the messiest cookies I have EVER made. Mostly because of my own lack of thinking. Don't be like me. Anyways, add in the sugar and combine. Add the eggs (beat them slightly before adding, it really will make things easier). 

The recipe says to mix the flour, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and add in batches. Or you can do like me and add it on top of the wet ingredients and mix with your fingers. Mix well. Add the vanilla. I'm sure you could probably add the vanilla before the flour, but I hadn't thought about that, and the recipe DOES say after the flour. 

This is where a cookie press or pastry bag with a large star tip comes in handy. If you have one. Which I don't. If you do have one of those things, by all means, pipe them onto the cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. If not, roll them into a ball and flatten slightly. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges start to turn golden brown. Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar, or just leave plain!

These cookies are wonderfully chewy and simple. And buttery! When I opened up the oven, the only thing I could smell was BUTTER. Paula, you'd love these. 

These will need to be stored in an airtight container, unlike some other cookies. Now I will leave you to stare at the complexities of the above photo of Paula Deen. The cookies are so simple, I HAD to put a complex picture in here. I accept no responsibility for nightmares that the above picture will cause.