Top Recipes For 2017

IMG_2738

It was this same time a year ago I began to struggle with writer’s block. What to Write? What to write? What to write? Like last year, I got nothin’! So instead I will share YOUR top 3 favorite recipes from 2017. BTW-your favorites are for sure some of mine. May love always guide you in the kitchen.

Sweet William's Fancy

inspired by Will

Not one bit surprised that the recipe that got me started writing this blog makes the top list for the second time. Who doesn’t love a perfectly crisp chocolate chip cookie with a soft inside spiked with bourbon? Click here for the recipe.

 

Image 1-21-18 at 8.02 PM

Next up a heart-warming nourishing bowl of soup that features wild rice. It’s perfect for the crazy cold winter we are having all over the country. Click here for the recipe.

 

IMG_0817

Pretty sure this third and final recipe made the list not only because people seem to love everything cheesecake, but also because it was a Food Network Magazine prize winner. Getting a little national attention never hurts in the blogosphere. Get the recipe right here.

***

Food is the common denominator that brings all kinds of people together at the table

Gather the ones you love most as often as you can.

More Happiness in 2018

 

IMG_8783

Kindness & Cheesecake Blondies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

img_0458

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.

dscn0401

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.

img_0813

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. 

IMG_0817

 

 

 

 

Birthday, Basil & Cheesecake, Oh, My!

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

It was 11 years ago, on her 18th birthday, when I presented Caitlin with 18 hand-written love letters. It was an annual event for me to write my baby girl a letter on July 14th and stash it away in a “treasure box”. Now, as she was leaving the nest, it was time for my first-born to have them. Hopefully, seeing herself through a loving mother’s eyes and remembering all the goodness she had brought to our family would give her strength and wisdom as she set off on her own.

Cait & Sam graduate

Cait & Sam graduate

As parents, Bill and I could not have been more proud when Caitlin graduated with honors in economics from Wake Forest University. Wow!-we thought, money well-spent. She was on her way to her first big job in Philadelphia and the huge responsibility of seriously paying her own bills (woohoo!) Pretty sure there were times when she wished she was back in college, but she perseveres receiving promotion after promotion. Hello Ms Marketing Director.

marriage

And then came marriage and one of the happiest days of our lives. Hello, Mrs. Pemberton. Tomorrow she turns 29 and I realize I owe her way more than a love letter, but that is between me and her.

love my baby girl

love my baby girl

I will, however, share with you her favorite dessert which is cheesecake. Inspired by the plentiful basil in my garden and the juiciest, ripest strawberries ever this recipe is cause for celebration. Happy Birthday dear Caitlin!

cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

1-cup heavy cream

8 fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Crust

1 cup crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (18 Nabisco Chocolate Wafer cookies)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 pound fresh strawberries (reserve 9 berries for garnish and puree the rest)

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Heat oven to 325F. In a microwave safe measuring cup heat heavy cream on HIGH for 1 minute. Bruise basil leaves lightly with your fingers and submerge in hot cream; set aside to steep. Mix cookie crumbs, sugar and butter until crumbly; press over bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan; bake 8 minutes. Cool on wire rack. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, strawberry puree (you should have about 1 cup), vanilla, ¼ cup of basil infused heavy cream (cover and refrigerate the remaining basil-cream mixture) and yogurt until well mixed. Pour batter into crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is just set. Do not over bake. Cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill completely. Run a knife around the pan sides. Remove sides of pan. Remove basil from chilled cream. Add powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixture to stiff peaks. Garnish top of cheesecake with basil-whipped cream, reserved strawberries and basil sprigs, if desired.

Tips:

#1 place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl of your food processor before securing the top to keep the top from getting dirty (since I hate washing the top)

#2 use a flat bottom cup to pat the crumb crust into place and the back of a spoon to smooth around the edge