Kindness & Cheesecake Blondies

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Caring for a kitten in Afghanistan ~William Keys

Along this grief journey there have been quite a few moms who have touched my heart and inspired me to do better. Doreen is one of those moms. This poem is a gift from her.

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Choose kindness. It could make all the difference in your day or someone else’s day or a pet’s day or even the world.

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trying to follow in your kind light

This recipe was born from kindness. Inspired by my friend Laurie’s homemade salted caramel this dessert is salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy…need I say more? How kind of a dear friend to share her culinary sweetness with me. Thank you again, Laurie.

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Salted Caramel Cheesecake Blondies

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sugar

3 eggs, divided

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla, divided

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

1½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

5 tablespoons high quality caramel topping, warm

½ teaspoon fleur de sel

Heat oven 325F. Spray a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang over sides. Spray parchment with non-stick cooking spray. In small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add 1 egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla; blend well and set aside. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, whisk melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add remaining eggs and vanilla; blend well. Add flour mixture and mix with a spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in ¾ cups pecans. Spread half the blondie batter over bottom of prepared pan. Drop half the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls on top. Reserve 2 tablespoons of caramel. Drop the remaining caramel by teaspoonfuls in between the spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture. Repeat layering with remaining blondie batter and cream cheese mixture. Using the tip of a butter knife gently swirl the blondie batter, cream cheese mixture and caramel together creating a marbled effect. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Using the parchment edges, lift the blondies from the pan to a cooling rack. Drizzle with remaining caramel and sprinkle with pecans and fleur de sel. Chill in refrigerator until completely cool. Cut into bars or squares. 

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Garden Tour & Cream of the Crop

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thank you slateplate for this beautiful serving tray

Good morning dear followers. Not exactly sure what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but the mid-Atlantic feels like spring this winter. Bulbs are pushing their bright green shoots through the dirt already with temperatures climbing into the 70’s. Warm and loud thunderstorms are replacing snow. Will it stay this way? Doubtful, but hopeful.

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speckled trout lettuce in a cold frame

The fear of winter’s return hasn’t stopped me from getting into the garden and finishing  some clean-up. The north wind has a nasty habit of burying the landscape in leaves and riddling the yard with sticks. Being in the garden is as much therapy as cooking, so I don’t mind the dirty work. It’s the best distraction thinking March winds and April showers are just around the corner.

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hoping for some fresh asparagus in a month or two

Good Grief Cook thought throughout the gardening/growing season it might be interesting to take you on a good, the bad and the ugly of the garden. It’s February. All looks dark and dead right now, or maybe it’s just asleep. Anyway, this will be your first glance of the winter garden. Should be fun to watch it transform month to month. Let the tour begin.

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protecting the fig trees-unveiling come May

Hope you have enjoyed these few photos today. In addition to the garden I am working on improving my photography and food styling. Isn’t that black slate tray beneath the creme brûlée a natural beauty? It’s made in the USA. You will be seeing a lot of it. Thank you, Garmon for this gift.

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sleeping raised bed

Let’s make some creme brûlée. It seems to be the cream of the dessert crop. I posted this photo on instagram and was surprised to learn how many people consider creme brûlée their favorite dessert. A simple, but rich and creamy vanilla custard topped with crispy caramelized sugar….okay I get why people love it so much. Plus it involves fire.This recipe is adapted from Christopher Kimball’s Dessert Bible.

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Crème Brûlée

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup light cream

3 eggs

½ cup sugar, divided

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven 300F. Place a cloth napkin over the bottom of a roasting pan. Place 4 (5-inch) brulee dishes or 6 ( 6 oz) ramekins in the roasting pan leaving space between each dish. Boil water in a tea kettle or a pan with a spout. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and light cream just to a simmer. (you should see whisps of steam). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, ¼ cup sugar, salt and vanilla. While gently whisking, very slowly pour hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Strain mixture into a large measuring up or bowl with a spout. Divide mixture evenly among brulee dishes or ramekins. Pour hot water into roasting pan until it comes up half way the sides of the dishes. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until custards are set but still quiver in center. Remove from water bath and cool. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Can be made 2 or 3 days in advance at this point. Just before serving sprinkle tops evenly with remaining sugar. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar. Serves 4 to 6

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my little jelly bean dressed for some garden work

Wild Blueberry Frozen Hot Chocolate Smoothie

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By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

What I enjoy most about recipe challenges are the memories they conjure up. That creative process of mixing something new and different comes from a place deep in the heart and brain. It usually hits about 3 am and reminds me that those I love and where I have been inspire my food.

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From the time the kids were small we vacationed in Maine. In summer, we joined friends at Pine Point beach searching for and discovering sand dollars. The wild wonders of Mother Nature enticing the kids to dig deeper into the numbing cold ocean water always did my heart good. Then pre-Christmas shopping in Freeport, Maine enjoying a cozy fire at a quaint B&B and in spring and fall girls’ weekends to Ogunquit and guys’ fishing trips to Rangeley, respectively. Suffice to say lots of wonderful family time was spent in the Pine Tree state.

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William & Caitlin 11/26/1991

If nothing else entering recipe contests brings some good food to the table and a reminder of just how blessed I have been with great memories. It’s been a real pleasure creating this final entry for the #wildyoursmoothie recipe contest which could potentially bring me back to Maine to learn more about wild blueberries. Here is what I already know.

  • wild blueberries have been growing in Maine and Canada for about 10,000 year
  • wild blueberries have 2x the antioxidants of larger cultivated blueberries
  • wild blueberries are part of a heart healthy diet and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • wild blueberries have a well balanced sweet-tart flavor

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In my latest inspired recipe wild blueberries and dark organic chocolate blend with coconut water to make a powerful antioxidant drink that will energize the day or replenish after a work-out. Freezing the coconut water into ice cubes is a bit of flavorful genius that allows that sweet-tart balance of the wild blueberries to shine through the richness of the chocolate. Share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Wild Blueberry Frozen Hot Chocolate Smoothie

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 ½ cups pure coconut water

2 ounces organic dark chocolate (72% cacao or greater), chopped

1 teaspoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao

3 pitted medjool dates

1 cup frozen wild blueberries, plus additional for garnish

2 heart shaped marshmallows, optional

Pour 1 cup of coconut water into an ice cube tray and freeze. Place chocolate and cocoa in a small heatproof 1-cup measure. In a small saucepan bring remaining coconut water to a boil; pour over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Stir mixture until chocolate is melted. Add dates to hot chocolate and let cool to room temperature. In high-speed blender, combine cooled chocolate-date-coconut water mixture, frozen wild blueberries and frozen coconut water cubes; blend until smooth. Pour into serving glasses. Garnish with marshmallow and wild blueberries, if desired.

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Frozen at harvest to lock in nutrition individually quick frozen (IQF) wild blueberries are available all your round in the frozen food section of the grocery store. Check the package for the word “wild” or feel it for pea-sized wild blueberries to insure you are buying wild and not cultivated blueberries.