Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake

A few weekends ago my husband and I were enjoying our early morning Saturday coffee time at home.  The tv was on and I was in and out of watching Pioneer Woman. Ree was doing a Friendsgiving with her girlfriends.  She proceeded to make this Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake.

My husband recognized the spring form pan she was using and says, "Hey, you have one of those, you should totally make that".  I wanted to say back to him...yes, I also have my own tool box, but you don't see me changing the oil in my car, do you?

I haven't had a lot of experience with cheesecakes made from scratch.  To me, in our altitude, they can get a little tricky.  Some of them have to be "in a bath", and others cook dry in the oven.  Some bake and others just chill out in the refrigerator.   I did conquer Trisha Yearwood's Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce and also played with some "semi-homemade" cheesecake desserts, but never a pumpkin cheesecake.

I'm always up for a good challenge, why not??!!  Until he said..."You can make it on Thanksgiving"!! Really??...yes, let's just throw a completely new recipe at me during the busiest cooking day of the year, because I'm not doing enough that day and using every bowl, mixer, and measuring utensil in the kitchen.  Well, with some very careful planning and scheduling of everything that day I jumped in...and nailed it!!  

So, if you're not completely sick of anything pumpkin right now and looking for a luscious dessert for the holidays to serve your family or guests, I highly recommend this cheesecake..they will be so impressed!!

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake
Courtesy of Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman)

For the Crust:
12 ounces gingersnaps
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
6 Tbl salted butter, melted
2 Tbl packed brown sugar
dash of kosher salt

For the Filling:
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

To make the crust; in a food processor or blender, grind the gingersnaps until fine.  Pour into a bowl and stir in the pecans, melted butter, brown sugar and salt.  Press into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling; beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until soft, scraping the sides once.  Mix in the pumpkin, scraping the sides once or twice.  add the eggs 1 at a time, allowing them to mix in, then add the sour cream and mix.  With the mixer on low, add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.  Thoroughly scrape the bowl and mix to ensure everything is smooth and mixed in.

Pour the filling into the chilled springform pan crust, smoothing the top.  Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is no longer soupy but still slightly jiggly, about 50 minutes.  Turn off the oven, open the door a little and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 15 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight (is even better).

Serve with caramel sauce and/or freshly made whipped cream.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Buckets
Two Years Ago: Pecan Pie Bites
Three Years Ago: Zensational Chili

Monday, December 5, 2016

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Copycat Recipe

Our first big blizzard is due to roll in sometime tomorrow night or early Wednesday morning.  We have removed everything from the patio and are prepared to hunker down for our holiday storm. Snow brushes and ice scrapers have been deposited into everyone's vehicles and inventory of scarves, hats, mittens and gloves have been completed.

I have been in denial for weeks about winter coming.  The weather has been nice, but crisp...sunny, but a breeze and chill in the air.  Yet, I still keep wearing my capri jeans, light sweaters and flats, thinking I am in the middle of July somewhere on vacation.  I come home freezing and yet, still in denial.  

Last night I reorganized my "summer into fall, into now winter wardrobe" preparation.  Dansko shoes are polished up and ready to hit the snow.  Thick sweaters are hung in closet and ready to be wrapped in my favorite pashmina scarves.  Winter coats have been retrieved from the basement storage and replaced with our light rain jackets until next Spring.

Another way to keep toasty warm is this unbelievably awesome soup.  I saw it on Pinterest and thought it looked really good.  I have been to quite a few Olive Gardens and never heard of this soup, which surprised me because I thought I knew their menu fairly well.  Olive Garden is one of my mom's favorite restaurants.  She loves the family style never ending salad and their accompanying dressing.  (I of course, love the unlimited breadsticks...have your tried dipping them in a side dish of their Alfredo sauce? Pure addiction!)

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Copycat Recipe
Courtesy of

4 slices bacon, diced
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth
3 russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups baby spinach
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in cooked sausage and fresh spinach until spinach begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream until heated through, about 1 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve immediately, garnished with bacon.  Pairs great with a Pinot Grigio and a  rustic baguette. 
Stay warm my friends!

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Buckets
Two Years Ago: Pecan Pie Bites
Three Years Ago: World's Best Lasagna

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups and The Ritz Carlton

I am, without a shadow of a doubt, due for a much needed weekend at a Ritz Carlton resort!  Here's where life has taken me in the first few days of December...I pray that it can only get better from here.

You all know the song "The 12 Days of Christmas"?  
Well, I have developed my own version as of late...

The 1st day of Christmas, my (1) husband had hernia surgery and looks like someone did target shooting practice on his belly.  He is in more pain than he ever thought he could know 
and has a new respect for me and my C-Section 17 years ago.  

The 2nd day of Christmas my (2) daughters have the worse case of "senioritis" I have ever seen.  Emotions are all over the board, finals are next week, continue applying to colleges, plan their year long Capstone Project events and they are barely hanging on, counting down until graduation...
in MAY!  

The 3rd day of Christmas, my (3) dogs all have some sort of ailment or another.
I have cleaned up more **** this weekend than I ever did with my twin babies!

That being said, I ended up having to purchase an early Christmas "gift"...a new Bissell Professional Carpet Shampooer.  It cleaned up areas I thought could never happen and the carpets look brand new again!  Love this new machine!

The good news and reprieve is that this Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups is the perfect combination of easy, silky sauce, comforting and delicious.  Now if I could just get Santa to scoop me up in his sleigh and drop me off at the closest, most tropical Ritz Carlton!

Zucchini Lasagna Roll Ups
Courtesy of

2 (15 oz.) containers ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp. garlic powder
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce
5 large zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make ricotta mixture: in a small bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg and garlic powder and season with salt and pepper.

Spread a thin layer of marinara into the bottom of a 9"x 13" baking dish.

On each slice of zucchini, spoon a thin layer of the marinara sauce, then top with a thicker layer of ricotta mixture, and sprinkle with mozzarella.

Roll up and place in baking dish.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake until zucchini is tender and cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.

** This is really good served on a small bed of angel hair pasta...the finished baked sauce is unbelievable!

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Buckets
Two Years Ago: Pecan Pie Bites
Three Years Ago: World's Best Lasagna

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turkey Pot Pie - Leftovers 2.0

Our leftovers from Thanksgiving are finally dwindling down I'm happy to say.  Some things we just can't get through, so I have frozen a few items for later.  My husband says he cannot eat one more turkey sandwich for lunch, and I can't really blame him.  I have eaten so many carbs this past week, I swear I'm going to split my jeans at some point.  To add to the fun, I have an insatiable sweet tooth that is about to put me over the edge!

At any rate, because I haven't had yet enough carbs, I made this pot pie with puff pastry, don't you know! I love a good pot pie.  I have fond memories of eating them when I was little.  That small frozen foil bowl of goodness was always a treat, coming fresh out of the oven.  This was the perfect leftover solution for some of our turkey, chicken broth, heavy cream and veggies we had on hand from last week.  As I have reiterated in the past, I am no pastry chef, so it may not be the prettiest pot pie, but it was sooo comforting and good.  Enjoy!

Pot Pie
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

4 Tbl butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
3 cups cooked, chicken or turkey, shredded
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped fresh thyme to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 sheet puff pastry (thaw according to package directions)
1 whole egg
2 Tbl water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion, carrots and celery.  Stir them around until the onions start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the chicken or turkey and then sprinkle the flour over the top and stir until it's all combined with the meat and vegetables.  Cook for 1 minute then pour in the chicken broth and stir around to thicken.  Once it starts to thicken, add the sale, pepper and thyme.

Add the heavy cream, then stir the mixture and let it bubble up and thicken, about 3 minutes.  If overly thick, add a little chicken broth.  Turn off the heat.

Pour the filling into a 2 quart baking dish.  Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 1 inch strips. Overlap the strips, making a basket weave design over the filling.

Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of water and brush it over each strip of puff pastry.  (You will have some egg wash left over).

Place the baking dish on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puff pastry starts to puff up and turn golden brown.

One Year Ago: Wassail
Two Years Ago: Apple Pie Martini
Three Years Ago: Rub With Love

Monday, November 28, 2016

National French Toast Day - Double French Toast

This fall we had an opportunity to finally visit the famous historical Georgetown, Colorado. Such a fun, charming and sweet town to visit.  The weather was perfect for a stroll down "Main Street" and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Georgetown Loop train ride.

Main Street, Georgetown, Colorado

I'm always a sucker for the souvenir photo opportunity!

We took in the evening's diner car option and had the best time literally takes you back "into the day".  Charming music, lighting and upholstery.

The views from the train were spectacular and me being not a fan of heights, it took a lot for me to look down, but it was so well worth it.

One of our favorite stops on Main Street was Mountain Girl Bakery.  Mother and daughter owned and the most amazing homemade bakery delicacies I have ever experienced.

We purchased a couple loaves of their cinnamon swirl!!  We decided to make French Toast with it, because you really can't have enough cinnamon and sugar on a Saturday morning to start your weekend!

Double French Toast
Adapted from Trisha Yearwood

4 large eggs
1/2 cup vanilla creamer
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 to 8 thick cut slices cinnamon swirl loaf bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 to 8 Tbl butter, for pan frying
Maple syrup, for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, creamer and vanilla until fully combined,.  Pour the mixture on a large plate with edges, such as a pie plate or baking dish.  Dip the bread slices into the mixture, being sure to coat both sides evenly.  In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and pan fry two slices of battered bread at a time until gold brown, about 2 minutes per side.  When the second side is golden brown, generously sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture onto each piece and flip again.  Let the sugar caramelize for 30 seconds to 1 minute; repeat process on the other side.

Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate; repeat process with remaining butter, bread, and cinnamon sugar.  Serve with butter and warmed syrup.

One Year Ago: Wassail
Two Years Ago: Apple Pie Martini
Three Years Ago: Rub With Love

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Turkey Panini - Leftovers 1.0

Let the leftovers begin!!  It's now time to get creative with all our leftovers (since there were only 4 of us), you can only imagine how much food we have to plow through.

We are big panini fans in our house, panini grill maker is always on the ready and we make them all the time.  My daughter made her and I cheese paninis the other day while we were putting up the Christmas lights.  She was also on Pinterest and told me she found a panini with mashed potatoes and turkey...I think I may have gone to Heaven!

I searched around and found an Emeril Lagasse version that I tweaked and added mashed potatoes to (I'm sure he would approve), I know I did!

Roast Turkey Panini with Pesto
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/4 cup cup prepared basil pesto
8 slices ciabatta bread or other rustic Italian white bread, thinly sliced
8 ounces thinly sliced roast turkey breast
1 roasted red bell pepper, stemmed, skin and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
6 ounces Fontina or Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced, to cover the bread slices
1/2 cup prepared mashed potatoes
1 Tbl olive oil

Arrange the slices of bread on a flat work surface and , using a small spoon, divide the pesto evenly among 1 side of each of the bread slices.  Do the same with the prepared mashed potatoes on the other bread slice.  Divide the turkey, roasted pepper strips and fontina (or gruyere) cheese equally among 4 of the bread slices.  Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread, pesto sides down, to form 4 sandwiches.

Brush the outside of each sandwich lightly with some of the olive oil.  Heat a large skillet, griddle or grill pan over medium-high heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, pressing occasionally with a large metal spatula, about 4 minutes per side.  Serve immediately.

One Year Ago: Wassail
Two Years Ago: Apple Pie Martini
Three Years Ago: Juicy Apple Popovers

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving (and thankful for) No Boil Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and hope you are having a blessed and relaxed day full of wonderful food, conversations and memories.

The day where a week of guarding your $300 worth of groceries in the refrigerator, pantry and freezer and fending off your children from raiding everything before Thanksgiving, has finally come to an end.

We had the four of us this year.  It always amazes me though, it doesn't matter if I am cooking for 4 or 40, it's always the same amount of food, prep and cooking time.  I just can't bring myself to half or quarter the recipes.  It just wouldn't be the same without all the giant platters of food all over our family style table.

One thing I did try differently this year to keep on schedule was a new method of "no boil" mashed potatoes that cook in your slow cooker all day long.  What a difference!  This new method has changed my world!!

No Boil Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from

5 pounds (mashing) potatoes, i.e. Yukon
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbl fresh parsley
2 Tbl cream cheese (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks.

Place potatoes, broth, garlic powder and onion powder into the slow cooker.

Cook on high 3-4 hours (or low for 6-7 hours).

Using a masher, mash potatoes until smooth.  Stir in butter, sour cream, parsely and cream cheese, if using.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I added in a little more butter, sour cream, cream cheese and heavy cream for our tastes....who am I kidding??...I added in A LOT of those ingredients!  I also used my electric hand mixer for whipping it all together.

One Year Ago: Wassail
Two Years Ago: Apple Pie Martini
Three Years Ago:  Cranberry Bliss Bars

Other goodies we enjoyed this year....

Seven Generation Dressing

Zens Veggie Platter with Cheese Sauce