Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Almond Cheesecake

Taste of Home again comes to the rescue with this adapted recipe from a Ms. Brenda Clifford of Kansas.


For Crust
1 1/4 cup crushed Nilla wafers (about 40 wafers)
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

For Filling
4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Topping
2 cups (16 oz. container) sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse to crush the wafers, then remove to a small bowl. Add in almonds to the food processor, and pulse to chop up the almonds as well. Add the almonds to the crushed cookies in the bowl, and add in the sugar and melted butter till fully incorporated. Butter a 10" springform, press the almond-butter-cookie mixture into the bottom of the pan, then set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg, then beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan, over the crust. Place the springform pan on top of a baking sheet, then place in the oven.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the cheesecake is almost set in the middle. Remove from the oven (keep oven on) and let sit for five minutes. Combine the sour cream, sugar and vanilla, then spoon the mixture onto the top of the cheesecake. Spread the mixture evenly across the top of the cheesecake. Sprinkle the almond slices on top of the cheesecake evenly, then place it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until completely set.

Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen. Cool completely to serve, or refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, remove the springform pan sides to serve. You can also serve this with fresh berries. (I chose to finely cut strawberries, and sprinkle them with a bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mash together, then serve with the cheesecake.)

Yields approximately 14-16 servings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Banana Bread

I adapted this recipe from Orangette who in turn adapted it from a Bakesale Betty recipe in Bon Appetit a few years back. Thanks everyone! You have re-introduced banana bread joy into my little kitchen.


For bread:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I actually did 1/2 white sugar, 1/2 brown sugar. Do as you will!)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2-3 medium bananas)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

For topping:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
Couple handfuls of shredded, sweetened coconut (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9- x 5-inch metal loaf pan. (Alternatively, you can spray the pan lightly with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper, which makes for easy lifting and clean-up).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, oil, honey, and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle them evenly over the batter.

Bake the bread until a tester inserted into its center comes out clean, about 1 hour, give or take a little. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack (or the counter) for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the bread from the pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms and Zucchini

I honestly think the veggies here can be swapped with anything you like. Some people are super into broccoli in their lasagna (I, on the other hand, am most definitely not), but do what you will.

Other vegetarian lasagnas do not necessarily saute the vegetables before layering into the dish. Why miss an opportunity to flavor relatively bland veggies like mushrooms and zucchini? In conclusion, people are silly, so just saute the veg and be happy with yourself.

The key thing to remember here is have some fun with the flavor. Not enough basil for your taste? Add more! Craving more garlic? Chop some up and throw it in. This is by no means a set recipe, just what I happened to throw together the other night.


1 large 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (with basil if you want)
1 large, ripe, tomato, chopped. (or a few roma tomatoes, chopped).
1 large, clean bunch of fresh basil (torn or chopped)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
Oregano or Italian herb seasoning and red pepper flakes, to taste
1 large zucchini
1 carton of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 box of the flat lasagna noodles (without the ruffly-edged ridges.)
1 small container of ricotta cheese
1 small block of mozzerella, shredded
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Chop up the onions and garlic, and saute in a few pats of butter or olive oil in a good-sized saucepan on low-medium heat until the onions turn opaque. Be careful not to keep the heat on too high or you will burn the garlic. Add a dash of salt, and stir. Add in the chopped fresh tomatoes, and cook until the liquid starts coming out of the tomatoes, which will take several minutes. Add a few dashes of the red pepper flakes, some fresh ground black pepper, and some of the oregano/Italian herbs. (At this point I also threw in a few splashes of red wine and allowed it to cook off a bit to flavor the onion/garlic base. This is totally optional though.)

Next, add the can of the diced tomatoes, and a big handful of the torn or shredded basil. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Make sure the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and basil are all fully incorporated into the sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes or so, uncovered, to reduce the sauce a bit and concentrate the flavors. Continously taste the sauce for your preferred level of heat with the red pepper flakes, the oregano/Italian herbs, and the level of salt/pepper, and add these items into the sauce as needed. Once the sauce thickens a bit after 15 minutes of simmering (more or less), turn off the heat and allow to rest.

In the mean time, slice up the zucchini and the mushrooms. Saute them in some olive oil with the same spices as you used in the tomato sauce (red pepper flakes, oregano/Italian herbs, salt, pepper.) Once the mushrooms get soft and the zucchini starts to brown a bit, the veggies are ready.

In a small bowl, add the egg, ricotta cheese, a bit of salt, freshly cracked pepper, and some oregano and mix thoroughly till everything is fully incorporated. If you haven't done so already, shred the mozerella cheese.

In a casserole dish, spoon a bit of the tomato sauce along the bottom. Add as many sheets of the lasagna pasta as needed to cover the tomato sauce. Next add on some of the sauteed veggies, spreading them across the lasagna pasta sheets. On top of the veggies, add a few dollops of the ricotta cheese mixture, and spread evenly on top of the veggies. On top of the ricotta cheese, add sprinkle a handful of the mozerella cheese, and then a spoonful of the tomato sauce till covered. Add another layer of the uncooked pasta sheets, the veggies, the ricotta, the mozerella, and the tomato sauce. By now you should have used up all of the ricotta and the veggies, with just enough tomato sauce and mozzerella left for the top. Add the final layer of lasagna pasta on top, covered by the remainder of the tomato sauce and the last hefty sprinkling of mozerella cheese.

Cover the lasagna in foil, and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling. Remove the foil and allow to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese on top is lightly browned.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow to cool for a solid 15-20 minutes before serving. Chop up some basil (or tear it) and sprinkle it on top. Make sure to give it the full time to cool off a bit and settle down. It's definitely worth it. Enjoy!