Sweet Potato Cheesecake

I know I'm inundating you with sweets and desserts of all kind.  But it's just that time of year for cookies, pies and cakes. I guess you could find a reason to satisfy your sweet tooth at anytime.  Yet the Holidays seem to be the most suitable time.

Let me just apologize in advance.  And to start making it up to you, we're just going to back into this one and take it slow.   

Well, I don't really know how much that helped you because it would have done nothing for me but peek my interest even more. I tried though. Really I did. But congrats to you if you can contain yourself and look no further. For the rest of you who are more like me, I'm just going to stop teasing you and give you the full monty. 

There it is! It's done. That is a ridiculously delicious Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  A cheesecake that could easily rival any cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. It's creamy and smooth center is perfectly sandwiched between a gingersnap pecan crust and sour cream pecan topping.  Seriously.  I don't know what else a girl could ask for.  Except maybe a fork and some alone time to properly indulge in such a satisfying dessert.

Don't worry, the loved ones in your life will permit you to do so.  They're not going to be up to sharing this one. Trust me. I made this right before Thanksgiving and had intentions of taking half of this cheesecake to work to share (two people do not need to eat an entire cheesecake). Low and behold, Mr. Foodie would not allow it. So guess how many people ended up eating an entire cheesecake. Two.  Absolutely sinful. But hey, it's the holidays remember.  That's my mantra and I'm sticking to it.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

For the crust:
35 gingersnaps, crushed
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 stick butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed/pureed
1 teaspoon each of the following - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

For the topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon each of the following - cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Making the crust - Using a food processor or blender, pulse together the gingersnaps, pecans and melted butter. Press the crust into a 9-inch spring-form pan.  Cover the bottom of the pan evenly, going up the sides approximately 1/4 of an inch. Place in the refrigerator until ready to fill

Making the filling - Using a mixer or a strong blender, mix together the softened cream cheese and eggs until smooth and well combined.
Add the sugar, maple syrup, sweet potato, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice and flour. Blend until smooth but not too long or too many cracks will appear on top when it bakes.
Pour the mixture into the spring-form pan and bake for 45 minutes. You will know the cheesecake will be doe when the sides are set and the center is still a little jiggly.
Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes

Making the topping - In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sugar and maple syrup together. Add the pecans

Take the cheesecake out of the oven, spread on the topping and let the cheesecake sit for another 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours and then serve.

adapted from homesicktexan


Molasses Cookies

I think Santa, his reindeer and his elves will all be equally as happy if you left these Molasses Cookies by the tree.  You might want to add the the sugar cookies for safe measure.  I mean it is Santa Clause after all.  He does leave the gifts.

With a little ginger, cloves, cinnamon and molasses, you can't find a better cookie offering warm, sweet and spicy undertones.  To top it all off, the cookies are rolled in sugar before you bake them. Crunchy edges and a moist middle, these cookies are perfect. Especially when it's cold outside.  I found this recipe on this cute blog.  This is one of her grandmother's recipes and I am delighted that she shared this recipe with readers.  It was such a cinch to make, you really can't go wrong.

Oh and please tell me you noticed how gorgeous they are.  I was initially only going to bake half the cookie dough and freeze the rest for later (I think I got 4 dozen cookies from the portions in the recipe).  But after the first batch was done, they were so visually appealing, I decided to go ahead and make all of them.  I am so glad I did too.  Cause when my mouth caught up to my eyes, my taste buds were very thankful. I even got a text declaring "these cookies are good as (insert expletive word here)" after Mr. Foodie found a couple in his lunch.  Another incredibly simple keeper.

Molasses Cookies
Printable Recipe

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground ginger and salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
extra sugar for coating

Combine butter, sugar, molasses and egg in a large mixing bowl
Combine flour, baking soda, cloves, ginger, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well until combined.  I used an electric mixer
Dough will be sticky. Place in the refrigerator until the dough has hardened
Heat oven to 375 degrees
Remove from refrigerator and scoop out dough. I used my hands but you can use an ice cream scooper
Roll into 1-inch sized balls
Roll the balls of dough into the sugar and place on a cookie sheet, well spaced apart
Press down on the cookie dough, slightly, using the bottom of a glass

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Serve once cooled or store in an airtight container.
 adapted from framed


Christmas Sugar Cookies

Tis the Season!!!It's that time of year again and I'm so excited.  I absolutely adore Christmas. In addition to the music, the lights and decorations, the festive spirit in the air and...aheem...the food, I mostly look forward to spending time with family and friends. 

Since my Mommy moved to Florida, the holidays have been different.  The time is usually split between Florida (where my Mommy is), California (my Daddy and friends) and Chicago (Mr. Foodie's family). Yet juggling all of that, I still enjoy the traditions that have continued with my family. And those definitely include food and decorating.

Every year since I moved into my condo, five years ago, my Mommy comes in town to help me get my Christmas tree and decorate.  This year she drove up from Florida for a quick 24 hours, but it was well worth it.  Of course we did so much running around, shopping, getting mani's and pedi's, we almost forgot about having to decorate the tree.  After we got home, we both got our second wind to decorate the tree (we did pretty good, right) and....make Christmas Sugar Cookies.

I love being in the kitchen with my Mommy, although our "know it all" personalities can sometimes get in the way.  Luckily, we know ourselves and one another pretty well, it always makes for a fun time and memories I will always cherish.
Okay, enough gushing about my Mommy. Let's move on to the goodies at hand.

During our day long excursion, I undoubtedly got festive and picked up a few cookie cutters (a Christmas tree, a candy cane and a snowflake). So I knew we weren't going to bed before at least a few cookies were made.

The cookies were very tasty.  I've read the addition of the almond extract is what sets the good sugar cookies apart from the rest and I think I'll have to agree. It adds a subtle but powerful taste.  This is a pretty simple recipe but I warn you, it makes A LOT of cookies. Be prepared to share with family, co-workers and of course Santa Clause.  My cookie cutters were kind of small, I guess, because I was able to make about 6 dozen cookies over the course of  the week.  But they're little, so they go fast.  And it's hard to eat just one.  Mr. Foodie got caught several times with a green tongue.

Christmas Sugar Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until golden yellow.  Add the cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add 1/2 cup at a time to the butter/sugar mixture and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, up until overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally flour your counter top or work area. Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll out into desired thickness, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using preferred cookie cutters. Sprinkle cookies with colored sugar crystals.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookie. Remove from oven and let cook.  Enjoy
adapted from thekitchn.com


PW in Atlanta

In a perfect world, I would have made this post earlier this week.  On Tuesday as a matter of fact, immediately after it happened. I was so excited that I actually met HER. But my world is not perfect. Go figure.  I do have to go to work. And this week, it kicked my behind.  But you, I guess it's really me, will have to wait no further.  Here is the recap about me meeting...The Pioneer Woman, P-Wub for short (she gets credit for that, not me. But I think it's adorable)

That's me and P-Wub at her cookbook signing in Atlanta. In person, she looked just as flawless as her pictures.  And sooo friendly.

That's her chatting it up with me.  And then that's her taking my business card after I asked her to check out this little blog.  She said she would and I sure hopes she does.  That would be beyond awesome.

If you like food blogs, I'm sure you've already heard of her and probably been a frequent visitor to her site. If you haven't, I am her to guide you in the right direction. The Pioneer Woman was one of the first food blogs I checked out about a year and a half ago (smittenkitchen was the other) and I've been a fan ever since.  She recently had her cookbook published and has been on a book signing tour for the past couple of months.  When I saw she was coming to Atlanta, I immediately marked the date on my calender.  Her cookbook, just like her blog, features step by step pictures that are amazing and really give you the confidence to make one of her dishes.  But her personable and clever writing style is probably what has led to her humongous following.  And I say humongous because there were several hundred people, many of whom had multiple copies of the cookbook to be signed, at Borders bookstore of Monday. In fact, I waited for 4 1/2 hours.  But it was well worth it.  The Pioneer Woman Rocks!!

Her sister, Betsy (right), and friend, Hyacinth, (both featured in the cookbook) were also there.  I was equally excited to meet Betsy because her pasta was the first thing I tried from P-Wub's website and have made it many times since.  Penne a la Betsy, which I've featured below. Let me just share with you that Betsy is so sweet and engaging, it clearly must run in the family.  She even snapped a picture of Mr. Foodie and I (with her camera so I can't share it with you...tear).  She thought it was so sweet that he was there, waiting with me and taking pictures for me.  I explained how he was my motivation for this blog.  I told her he was a keeper. Thanks baby!
So I urge you to check out her blog or even add the cookbook to your Christmas list.  Both are great reads with simple and delicious recipes, like this and the one below.  But I warn you.  You will walk away with hunger pains, so prepare yourself.

Penne a la Betsy
Printable Recipe
serves 6
1 pound Penne Pasta
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (can substitute with chicken broth)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the penne pasta until al dente, following the instructions on the box.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes, until the shrimp are pink. Be careful not too overcook them.  Remove from heat and transfer to small bowl.  Allow to cool for a few minutes. On a cutting board, chop the shrimp into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Add  the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent.  Add the white wine to the mixture and cook, letting the wine evaporate for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce.  Stir well until combined and then add the heavy cream. Continue stirring.  Turn the heat to low and let simmer, 5-6 minutes.

Add the chopped shrimp to the tomato cream sauce.  Stir to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley and basil and stir.  Finally, add the pasta to the sauce and stir so the pasta is coated with the sauce.

adapted from pioneerwoman.com


Dirty Risotto

So I have finally regrouped from the Thanksgiving holiday and all those wonderful leftovers we had. It was definitely nice to get back in the kitchen to make something totally unrelated to holiday food. Especially since I'll be having a very similar meal in the very near future with Christmas only 2 1/2 weeks away.  At least this time I'll leave all the majority of the cooking to my mother.

This weekend, I finally tried my hand at this "Dirty" Risotto I first spotted a couple of months ago over on the brown eyed baker's blog. She adapted it from a recipe on the food network by Giada De Laurentiis and made it look so good.

I quickly feel into a deep like for the dish.  The kind of like that distracts you with fleeting thoughts every so often.  The kind of like where your feelings deepen every time you look at the picture (I bookmarked it to further torture myself). I was hoping the feelings would finally give me the courage to make it.

You see, I have always been a little hesitant on making risotto because the dish just seemed too intimidating.  There is a certain technique of having to constantly stir the ingredients while adding the liquid (stock) and paying specific attention to achieve the right texture of the rice...not too chewy, not too firm.  I made a tomato risotto once before, a few years back, and was not impressed.  That just solidified my need to leave this dish to the restaurant chefs.

But that deep like continued to gnaw at me. And the last time I looked at the bookmarked picture that was it.  I pumped myself up and knew it was now or never.  If the picture had me hooked, I could only imagine what tasting this dish could do for me.

And I'm here to tell you, I did indeed cross the threshold and am officially in love.  This risotto was simply fantastic and Mr. Foodie will definitely cosign this statement.   The dish was savory and layered with full flavors from the combination of white wine and chicken stock.  And to my delight, it was not complicated to make at all.  I did have to exercise a little patience (not one of my strong points) but all for a good cause. So please don't let the idea of the dish being complicated deter you from trying this.  It was superb.  

Dirty Risotto
Printable Recipe
serves 6

5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 oz white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley (I forgot to use this)

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer.  Cover and keep warm on low heat until ready to use later

In a large and heavy saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sausage and crumble while sauteing until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.  Remember to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. There is great flavor in that stuff. Season with salt and pepper (eyeball it)

Add the rice and stir in the pan to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, approximately 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup simmering broth and stir until almost fully absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking the rice over medium-low heat, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next.  Continue this until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite.  The mixture should be creamy.  This process will take approximately 25-30 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and incorporate well. Sprinkle with parsley and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

adapted from browneyedbaker.com originally from foodnetwork.com