Mom's Company Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but tend not to make it because it's too labor intensive. When my mom was visiting after Samuel was born, she made us her cheesecake. It is super easy and isn't difficult to make. The sour cream topping hides any mistakes, bubbles, or variations in color!

My mom has an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's from the 70's, is hardbound and well worn. Inside this cookbook is a recipe for Company Cheesecake. I vividly remember eating this cheesecake over the years as we would have friends over for dinner or be guests at their homes. As you may know, I love modifying recipes. I didn't realize that characteristic was from my mom! Check out her recipe notes:

Mom's Company Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. Graham Crackers (aprox. 2 packages), finely crushed

  • 3 tbsp. Sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

  • 4 tbsp. Butter, melted

  • 3 (8 oz.) pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened (or whipped cream cheese)

  • 1 1/3 c. Sugar

  • 2 tsp. Grated Lemon Peel

  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

  • 4 Eggs

  • Sour Cream Topping: 1 c. sour cream, 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract, and 2 tbsp. Sugar (beat together)

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Mix cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon & butter. Press in bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake 10 minutes; cool.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese in large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/3 cup sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla; beat in 1 egg at a time. Pour over crumb mixture.

Bake until center is firm, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, but no longer than a few days (if it lasts that long). Top with sour cream mixture.

Loosen edge of cheesecake with knife before removing springform pan. Cut and serve to friends and loved ones. Enjoy!

A Tale of Bread Pudding

There once was a woman who thought it would be a lovely evening to have bread pudding. But this was no ordinary bread pudding, this was pumpkin bread pudding. Made with only the finest ingredients.

After she left her place of employment, she went to a local coffee shop. The employees refilled her jar of coffee beans and even ground them for her. She also purchased the most delicious looking baguette. It was a crusty baguette, the type Remy from Ratatouille would love. As she carefully took the bread from the kind employee, her hand was sliced by the waxed paper. Ouch, she thought, and as she looked down she saw a little cut. Walking out of the store, she greeted the coffee aficionado who was roasting coffee beans. He gave her a sample of the freshly roasted beans. Ah. Delicious.

As she drove to her castle, she thought of how exquisite the bread pudding would be. She thought it was even worthy of serving to her fair maiden sister, Heather. Who happened to be joining the feasting that evening.

Once the woman got home, she unwrapped her bread. Of course, as any good and caring lady would do, she began to chronicle how to make bread pudding. That way her friends and neighbors could read about it on her online story telling machine (the good 'ole blog). Photographs were taken. 

The recipe was splendidly mixing together. This would be a delectable bread pudding. It would be just sweet enough. Just dense enough. And certainly it wouldn't be a problem for the waistline. 

She knew as she cut the bread this was going to be scrumptious. The bread turned and the knife slipped. The poor choice of a knife cut her dainty digit instead of the bread. YIKES. She stopped cutting and ran to the sink.

She sat down afraid she might faint from the shock of the cut. A knock was heard on the castle door, she opened it. Heather, the fair maiden, entered. She helped the woman with the digit. 

When the master of the castle joined them from his excursion, he rushed to the woman. He kissed her hand and assured her she would live. His proclamation brought her happiness: the digit would be saved and a trip to the physician would not be necessary.

As any good tale should end, the woman's digit was spared.

But the best news was that the fair maiden came to the bread's rescue. And the three feasted on melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin bread pudding. 

Someday, the woman mused, she would share her recipe for the infamous bread pudding!

The end.

I'm joining another Heather (Extraordinary Ordinary) for Just Write Tuesday.

Farro with Chicken Sausage & Apples

The other day I was at Trader's (that's my nickname for Trader Joe's) and saw Farro. It was in the "What's New to Our Store" section.

The bright blue colored bag caught my attention. And at the price of $1.79, a bag, I couldn't pass it up.

Waiting in line to pay, I started reading the Farro package. It included a recipe for Sausage with Apples. Perfect. Now I had a recipe to create with this new find.

You may be wondering, as I was, what in the heck is farro? According to the New York Times, it's Italy's ancient grain. It's a small light brown grain that tastes like the offspring of pasta and brown rice!

This recipe cost under $10 and was the main dish for a dinner with 8 adults. Super affordable.

Farro with Chicken Sausage and Apples

(adapted from Trader Joe's bag)

Ingredients

  • 2 packages Farro

  • 1 pound Sweet Chicken Sausage

  • 1 package onion, shallot, garlic mixture (or 1 small onion, 1 shallot and 2 garlic cloves)

  • 2 Apples (cored and diced)

  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil or butter

  • Garlic Salt

  • Cayenne Pepper

  • Salt & Black Cayenne Pepper

Directions

Cook farro according to package instructions. Set aside.

Remove sausage from casings and add to a large skillet. Cook over medium heat. Use spatula to cut up pieces and ensure even browning. When sausage is browned, remove from skillet and set aside. In the same pan, with the drippings, add olive oil.

Sauté onions, garlic, and apples in the pan for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper the onion mixture. Add the farro and sausage to the skillet. Cook for 5 more minutes until heated through. Liberally add garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle a dash or two of cayenne.

Makes 8 servings

Serve immediately and enjoy!

What I'm Into (November Edition)

I can't believe another month has flown by. I love when bloggers share the things they've been reading, doing, or watching lately. Anne inspired me to write my own What I'm Into today.

Reading

I've had lots of fun reading books recommended by Shelia (Deliberate Reader) and Anne (Modern Mrs. Darcy). I am still raving about Love Does by Bob Goff.

I finished reading An Invisible Thread and I have Lived a Thousand Years. Both were thought-provoking, inspiring reads. 

I skimmed Dinner: A Love Story, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, French Women Don't Get Fat, and An Everlasting Meal

I'm in the middle of reading Bringing up bébé by Pamela Druckerman and really like the ideas and concepts she presents.

Listening

New music and me don't normally go together. I have been loving 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. I bought Carl Goes Up from the Up Soundtrack. Other than that, I listen to what Anthony turns on.

Crafting

Since Olivia (my niece) was due on December 5th, we had a Ready to Pop baby shower in the middle of November. I made a breastfeeding survival kit for Heidi. It included handmade burp cloths and a nursing cover.

(Heidi at her shower)

I also made Olivia a hooded towel and washcloth set and a few more blankets. 

I made two table runners and have Christmas fabric ready for a pennant to decorate our front room.

I started knitting again last night and am making a little mauve and purple beanie for guess who? Olivia! She just can't wear something that isn't handmade by her Auntie.

Cooking

Last weekend I made a small Thanksgiving dinner. I successfully made a turkey and it was delicious!

(photo credit)

I've been making lots of red sauce using Jessica's recipe. And I've made 3 batches of brownies over the course of 3 days. Maybe that's why my clothes aren't fitting?

Blogging

The most popular post was Homemade Vanilla Extract. My personal favorites were A Simpler Season and the DIY Natural Laundry Soap.

Blogger Love

Nearly every post has spoken to me in some way from Donald Miller's Storyline Blog. My personal favorites were:

Nikki (Christian By Association) wrote an insightful post called "Why Christians Should Say Happy Holidays." It's worth the time to read it. 

PC Walker (Ragamuffin PC) always writes posts that cut to the heart. "When you say, "I don't want to gossip, but ..." has helped me stop a few times. 

Anthony told me about Diane's blog, He Speaks in the Silence, and this Sunday Scripture was food for my soul.

Buying

I took a big leap and bought Michael Hyatt's Get Published while it was on sale last week. I haven't started the program, but I have high hopes for it helping me with my writing. 

I bought some earrings from Hannah, a necklace from Tricia, and fun cards to put on my sewing projects from Lindsay.

(Sewing projects with cards)

Watching

We went to the movies and saw Lincoln with Heidi and Caleb. It was a great movie and I thought the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis was perfect. I enjoyed the filming and appreciated the way the cameras recorded a scene from the ground.

Going/Travelling

This month we went to Disneyland with Anthony's family and had a great time. But seriously, how could we not have a great time at Disneyland?

My favorite part of our whole trip was the conversations we had while standing in line for rides and driving in the car. Because of the trip, we have nicknames: inlaws (Anthony, Donna, Brianna) & outlaws (Scott, Chad & me)!

I loved recapping this month!

What have you been up to lately?

Linking up with Leigh for What I'm Into.

Whole Spice, Napa Valley

Recently, I read a blog post about freshly ground spices making a difference in cooking and baking. The post was about pumpkin pie spice and it had a link to a whole spice company in Seattle. I soon had my online cart full of $50 worth of spices when I thought, what am I going to do with all of these spices? What if I don't like them? I abandoned my online shopping cart and forgot about the whole spice idea...

Until we walked into Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California. It was there I saw a sign, a sign that read: Whole Spice.

I proceeded to tell Anthony all about whole spices. He said, go buy what you want. I couldn't pass up his offer.

I met Jennifree who manages Whole Spice.

She was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable as she showed be around the spice racks.

Whole Spice is a local company who specializes in all types of spices. The owners, the Madmones, travel around the world to find the best spices. They bring them back to Petaluma where they create delicious aromas and blends.

Jennifree told me they have over 300 single herbs, 40 types of salt, 20 varieties of chili, and 20 different peppers!

In addition to all of those spices, they also have over 70 blends. My nose was happy when I smelled the chicken and turkey herb blends. It was like Thanksgiving in a jar! I bought their pizza blend and immediately I thought I was in a pizza kitchen.

The next time you need a new spice, visit Whole Spice (Napa Valley or online). Your olfactory senses will be pleasantly surprised when they detect a fragrant, fresh spice.

Have you ever ground your own whole spices? 

Farm Fresh Eggs: Your Opinion Wanted

I've been reading a lot about the benefits of farm fresh eggs versus the normal ones at the grocery store. Yesterday, I bought a dozen eggs at the local farmer's market from my old stomping grounds: Rio Linda, Ca. I got to talk to the owner of Hanks Hens and asked her questions. I left with a dozen eggs costing $5.

Aren't they pretty?!

I haven't yet eaten the new eggs, but I did hard boil a few and Anthony taste tested them. He said the farm fresh ones were a little soft for his liking. I promptly informed him its because they're so fresh and the ones from the grocery store can be up to a month old before they arrive in our fridge. (thank you google)

So, I must know. What are your thoughts on farm fresh eggs? 

Pinterest Baking Day

Jenna texted me a few weeks ago and said we should plan a baking day to create some of the recipes we've been pinning on Pinterest

We met last weekend to choose which recipes to bake. We planned on creating 2 desserts and 1 dinner item, but decided to only bake the 2 desserts. You know I was very happy with that idea! One tip would be to choose no more than 2 recipes. It was the perfect number to keep both of us on our toes, but finish baking/cleaning before we got tired of it.

Jenna is a fellow peanut butter lover, so picking out the Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips was a no-brainer. We also chose Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Both recipes turned out great. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find the mini donut baking pan, so we used the regular size pan. They were still heavenly!

And... yes, I did wear the Pinterest shirt given to me by Josh and Jodi (Josh works for them). 

Here's a few pictures from our day (taken by Jenna and me):

 

Baked Potato Bar

Do you have some potatoes sitting in your kitchen and need to make something for dinner? Look no further than your pantry to create this simple, yet tasty dinner.

Baked Potato Bar

Ingredients

  • 1 large Russet Potato, per person 
  • Broccoli florets
  • Chili (I used Hormel Chili 98% fat-free turkey with beans)
  • Sour Cream
  • Bacon
  • Butter (I used Trader Joe's Garlic & Herb)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and dry potatoes. Pierce potatoes with a fork 6-8 times. Liberally rub olive oil on each potato & add salt. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes. (This site was very helpful)

Cook bacon until crispy. Crumble into small pieces. Heat up the chili in a sauce pan. Steam the broccoli for about 5-6 minutes.

Cut into each potato and season how you choose. Enjoy! 

My Life in France~ My Favorite Quotes

I just finished reading Julia Child's book, My Life in France.

image source

This book describes how France gave her a passion for cooking she had never known. I have never watched any shows by Julia Child or even cooked any of her recipes, this book will change that!

Julia's husband, Paul, reminded me so much of Anthony. He encouraged Julia to pursue her dreams and helped her along the journey. When speaking of Paul's photography and his paintings, Julia wrote:

I discovered that when one follows the artist's eye, one sees unexpected treasures in so many seemingly ordinary scenes - (p. 42)

In relationship to cooking, I am taking these quotes to heart:

Never apologize. When one's hostess starts with self-deprecations...it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think you're right. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile...then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile--and learn from her mistakes - (p. 71)

[Speaking of bread making] You have to do it and do it, until you get it right - (p. 254)

Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care - (p. 302)

I loved that Julia referred to writing her cookbook as cookery-bookery! What a fun way of describing the writing process.

I want to learn how to make a mistake and move on, like Julia:

One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed - (p. 242)

The friendships Paul and Julia had were a great example to me. When thinking about travelling they almost decided not to, they quickly changed their minds:

But then we looked at each other and repeated a favorite phrase from our diplomatic days: "Remember, 'No one's more important than people'!" In other words, friendship is the most important thing--not career or housework, or one's fatigue--and it needs to be tended and nurtured - (p. 243)

I really appreciated Julia's passion for cooking/baking. This quote summarizes her feelings about being in the kitchen:

A careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience - (p. 302) 

My favorite quote from the entire book was regarding the process of writing "From Julia Child's Kitchen Cookbook" and describing what it was about:

And the great lesson embedded in the book is that no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun! - (p. 297)

I would definitely recommend this book as the starting point to discovering who Julia Child was and what inspired her, namely la bella (her beloved) France!

Bon appetite!

Have you read any books by Julia Child? What have you been inspired by lately? 

Happily joining Alicia for:

Sissy's Sausage Pasta

My friend Stacey was nicknamed Sissy by her little nephew. I think it is the best nickname, so from now on, she's Sissy. She told me about a new recipe she had made and I thought it sounded delicious. Sausage, tomatoes, spinach, and pasta. What's not to like?  

Here's my version of her pasta recipe~

Sissy's Sausage Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Penne Pasta (or other short noodle)
  • 1/2 pound Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1/2 large Onion, chopped
  • 4-6 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups Spinach, frozen
  • 1 jar Tomato Paste (8 oz)
  • 1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes, chopped
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Before draining the pasta, use a temperature resistant measuring cup to reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water to add to the meat mixture. When the pasta is done, drain and put pasta in a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, remove the casings from the sausage and brown in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the sausage has browned, turn off the heat and use a paper towel to remove most of the fat from the pan. Turn the heat back on to medium and add the chopped onion. Sauté for 5 minutes and add the garlic. When the garlic begins to smell (about 30 seconds), add the tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and frozen spinach. 

Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the meat mixture. When all ingredients are heated, pour the mixture into the bowl of pasta and stir. Add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

(This is what happens when Anthony is tasked with photographing my creations. Iron Man apparently likes pasta!)