Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Cheesecake? ... so says a friend

Here's what a friend says is an amazingly good cheesecake recipe.  If you try it, leave a comment.  I hope to make it sometime soon!

Janet’s Cheesecake Recipe and Baking Instructions
This recipe came to me from a woman who had the nerve to walk into a Christmas party at my sister in law’s house after I had spent hours making apple pie from scratch.  I was sure my dessert would be such a blessing to everyone there.  However, when this lady walked in with this beeeeautiful cheesecake with cherries on top, all heads turned and mouths gaped.  Turns out this lady was a former caterer and this was her best recipe.  By some sort of luck, I managed to wrestle the recipe out of this lady, and have used it so many times to bless my family and others.  It is such a blessing to be able to truly make a wonderfully delicious and beautiful dessert like this.  It’s not hard, but just a little fussy. 
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 Pounds Cream Cheese softened
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla
6 eggs
15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup lemon juice

Optional Toppings:
Cherry Pie filling
Cool Whip or frosting
Melted chocolate chips
Take your springform pan and find a larger pan that is at least 2-3 inches deep that you can set your springform pan down into for baking.  I use a large aluminum 10x13 pan.  This is called a ‘water bath’ and isn’t totally necessary, but helps make a smoother, less dry cheesecake.  Wrap a double layer of heavy duty foil around the springform pan, to prevent seepage of water into the pan. 

Grease springform pan. (note to self:  didn’t I put waxed paper down in a circle the first time?  Helps it come out easier to transfer, or reduces cut marks on my pan when cutting) Mix crust ingredients in the pan and press up the sides and bottom of pan to make the crust.  Keep in mind this will be visible when you serve the cheesecake, so try to make the sides as even as you can.  I just put my crust a tiny bit up the side and that was great.  Put your springform pan down into your larger pan to prepare for the ‘water bath’.
With electric mixer, beat all cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat till creamy.  Add 6 eggs and sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.  When mixture is creamy, pour into crust. NOTE: The cheesecake batter makes a lot more than fits into my springform pan so I make some cupcakes with it.  I might even be able to make two smaller cheesecakes if I had another springform pan. 
Put 1-2 inches of water (your ‘water bath’) into the larger pan that surrounds your springform pan.  Be careful not to let any water seep into your cheesecake pan, nor spill in as you are putting it in the oven.

 Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 min to an hour (maybe longer), OR until the cheesecake begins to rise a bit and a little bit of browning on the edges.  Do NOT let it rise too much or it will crack.  The cheesecake will be almost set.  Let it cool at room temperature and then chill overnight (or a couple of days). It will come out of the pan easily when it’s cold. 
Before serving, you may add a border of Coolwhip with a pastry bag around the edges to make a pretty border, and add a can of cherry pie filling in the middle.  Or you can drizzle melted choc chips over the top (if they don’t melt well enough in your double boiler, add a little bit of Crisco).  This looks fancy but is really easy.  The cherries also hide any imperfections on the top of the cheesecake, and they look beautiful and very festive!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Pecans

A friend of mine brought these to our Sunday school party, and I had to ask for the recipe.  These taste like candy (I'm not particularly a pecan fan, and I loved these!)... they are inCREDible!  Such a great Christmas dessert, and they go great with hot chocolate!

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Pecans 

½ cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons melted, salted butter
1 ½ cups pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, and cinnamon, making sure mixture is well blended and there are no lumps; set aside. Pour melted butter over pecans and toss to cover all the pecans. Beat egg white and vanilla until frothy but not stiff. Add pecans, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper (I used Silpat). Bake for 30 minutes, removing from oven every 10 minutes to stir and return promptly to oven. You will do two good stirs…completely turning and rotating all the pecans. Don’t skip this step!
Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, use a metal spatula to scoop the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Dog Food

I know, I know.  That title alone is enough to make some of you want to hurl.  Well, for those of you who are still with me, I need to share up front that MY FIRST ATTEMPT at making dog food was today, so I have not yet seen the results.

But having just gotten our precious little Ziggy, I want to try to feed him in healthy, natural, less expensive ways.  And he seems to GREATLY prefer Cesar-style wet food to the dry kibble.   So I'm going to try my hand at some varieties like the ones I share below, and make it like baby food (freezing it in muffin trays for perfect-sized portions).  I think it will be much cheaper and much healthier for him, with less fillers and better quality foods.  We'll see.

As I've reviewed a variety of websites & recipes, here are some tips I've found helpful (even if you don't feed a raw diet, the percentages in this one are helpful:
"I usually use raw meat, each recipe contains about 40-50% meat, fairly lean chicken/turkey/beef/heart-liver-gizzard, or salmon (with bones). The next ingredient in volume, about 20-30%, would be an orange cooked vegetable, pumpkin/yams/carrots/or a winter-type squash. Then about 20% is cooked oats/beans/barley/brown rice/quinoa or red potato with skin. Next in volume would be apple/banana or pear. Sometimes a bit of blueberry or cranberry too. Then hard boiled eggs & ground egg shell. Also a green veggie.. cooked and minced; kale, spinach, peas, green beans, broccoli, parsley, or asparagus. Sometimes I'll add PLAIN cooked, diced beets. Then trace amounts (relatively small amount in the entire batch) plain yogurt, a bit of cheese, garlic, flaxseed, Flaxseed or Fish oil, &/or apple cider vinegar."  ~One dog owner, Denise

According to one website, raw meat diets are preferable for dogs:

Raw dog food advocates maintain that all grains should be eliminated from our dogs' diets. They also cite that grains have been blamed as culprits for pancreatic stress and tooth calculus, that our dogs were not designed to process these items, and that asking them to thrive on grains is like asking a human to thrive on a red meat diet - most experts would advise against it.
Let's start by discussing what a raw-food dog's diet should consist of. All meat should, obviously, be uncooked, and may include: Eggs (with shell), beef, buffalo, venison, elk, chicken, turkey, emu, ostrich, rabbit, and fish. Small animals, like rabbits and fish, may be fed whole - dogs love it this way.
At least 60-80% of your dog's raw food diet should consist of raw meat. Further broken down, that meat allowance should be roughly 20% organs, 20% skin and fat, and 35% muscle meat.
Vegetables may be combined with meat, to account for 20-40% of your dog's diet. Appropriate ones include: Broccoli, squash, Romaine lettuce, carrots, cabbage, celery, and asparagus

This recipe sounds extremely simple:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) package frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower combination

One commenter suggests an alteration:
I've substituted ground beef for the turkey, and oats for the rice, and she likes both combos. I add 3 eggs, one egg shell very finely ground then strained (for calcium) and 3 Omega 3 tablets. I sometimes use peas and carrots, sometimes a large squirt of catsup and a very tiny sprinkle of garlic.  
Tips from other commenters:
I will sometimes add one or two of the following: yogourt, cottage cheese, sardines, lentils and fruits, such as pears, apples, peaches, bluberries and local beef hearts and liver, in small quantities. 
 A key to success I believe is adding variety during the week: My husband asks if I've "Snacked" the dogs today. They get an extra nutritious something every day: Cottage cheese, canned tuna or mackerel, scrambled eggs, some cheese, yogurt, etc.
I cook fresh ground turkey, add brown rice, cooked chopped carrots and a 1 TBS of plain yogurt and 2 TBS of cottage cheese. My vet told me that cottage cheese and yogurt are great for dogs with upset stomachs. Also adding a touch of canned plain pumpkin (not the kind with spices) to their diet is very good too. Canned pumpkin also helps with constipation! 
 One natural dog feeder raises some important points:
Also important to note many nutrients, minerals and vitamins come from different sources, therefore ensuring you alternate between ground and root vegetables, adding ground/powdered egg shells for calcium and different oils for the omega fatty acids is a must. Our dogs may look great now, but it is when they hit their older years we will see the affects of what we fed now. Also, soft foods will not promote healthy gums and teeth. Therefore, feeding RAW (and I stress RAW) meating bones are also mandatory. 
This website provides information about dog's nutritional requirements.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ALWAYS avoid these foods, as they can be harmful, and even lethal, for dogs: grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, garlic (sometimes debated), artificial flavorings, and some organizations advise against raw meat.

This homemade dog food recipe sounds great, and has a ton of "likes" on all

I just used that recipe as a foundation for the wet dog food I just made.  He just scarfed it down, mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with dry kibble.  Here's my recipe, made with items I had on hand in my fridge, freezer, and pantry:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 can black eyed peas
  • 1 large can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • handful soy nuts
  • handful frozen blueberries
  • 2-3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 c. cooked carrots
  • 2 c. cooked broccoli
  • 3 c. cooked quinoa
  • small mix of leftover pork roast, potatoes w/ skin, and juice left in that pan.

This mixture filled 4 muffin trays, and I still have a large mixing bowl full of it, ready to refill the muffin tins once the others freeze.  Like baby food, I will freeze these in muffin tins, and then heat up before each meal, or let them thaw 1-2 at a time in the refrigerator a day before he'll eat them.

Given his reaction today, it's a tasty mix.  Given what I've read on the internet, it's a healthy mix.  The only remaining factor is how it will do in his digestive system.  If everything goes well, I'll just let the post stand.  If we have any problems at all, I will come back and post/remove the recipe.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Beef n' Bean Taco Casserole

Tried this one tonight, and it was a hit.


  • 2 cans of crescent rolls, or 2 pie crusts, depending on the kind of crust you want.  
  • 1 lb. ground beef, browned w/ taco seasoning added
  • 1 (~15 oz) can refried beans 
  • 1/2 cup salsa, if desired
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (I used generic-brand reduced fat cream cheese and the taste was still excellent)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese 

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Brown meat & mix in water & taco seasoning packet according to packet instructions.  Once seasoned, stir in 1 can refried beans, and salsa if desired.
  3. Layer 9x13 casserole dish with either rolls or crusts, pressing with fingers to seal edges and to conform crust to dish.
  4. Use a spoon to spread the cream cheese to cover the bottom of the crust.
  5. Cover cream cheese with bean & beef mixture.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes @ 375 until crust is browned, then sprinkle top with cheddar cheese & put back in oven for 2-5 minutes until melted.