Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Potato Crusted Pork Chops

IMG_2447eBefore we left for Aruba I was walking through the grocery and had a major AHA moment when I happened to notice an end cap filled with boxes of something I’ve never purchased, potato flakes and I realized that they looked just like panko.  It dawned on Marblehead here that I could use them to “bread” pork, chicken or fish, making some of our favorite meals “safe” for Maisie and her food allergies.  I am really starting to find my way and though a bit of a pain in the tush, it is interesting to find new ways of making meals so that Maisie can continue to enjoy some of her favorite foods in a new and safe way and soon it will be my norm in cooking.  Once I got home with the potato flakes I looked up recipes on the web and sure enough there were dozens of them.  Most said dip the meat in an egg wash and coat with the potato flakes but obviously that wasn’t going to work for Maisie as she can’t have egg whites.  So I just lightly coated the meat with a little peanut oil and then the potato flakes which I seasoned with some garlic powder, salt, pepper and Italian seasonings and I baked the pork the way I always have and it worked out wonderfully.  The seasoned potato flakes were delicious and we we enjoyed one of our favorite meals in the new “safe for Maisie” way.

IMG_2444ePotato Crusted Pork Chops

2 boneless pork chops
1/2 cup potato flakes 
1 tsp. Italian seasoning 
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Peanut or oil of your choice 

Preheat oven to 450F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil.  In a bowl mix together the potato flakes, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Lightly coat the pork chops with oil and then dip into the potato flake mixture covering all sides of the pork.  Place the pork on prepared baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until cooked though.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Creamed Corn with Cheese and Cilantro

IMG_2325eOver the top, off the charts and outrageously delicious is the only way to describe this creamed corn  Oh my word, to say that we enjoyed this corn would be an understatement because I think I may have licked the bowl clean…okay, I did lick the bowl clean.  When I wrote this months Secret Recipe Club post I stated that I would be making and posting more recipes from Si’s A Bountiful Kitchen and here I am, true to my word.  I made Si’s Cheesy Creamed Corn with Cilantro the same night that I prepared her Texas Grilled Chicken with Lime Butter and what a delicious meal we had.  My poor little Maisie Miao Miao, who can’t eat this anymore, gobbled this corn up and I’m so sad that I can’t make it again for her exactly like before because she loved it.  I’m going to have to make this corn when she’s not around…or maybe not as I could eat the entire bowl, it’s just that good.  Since there are only three of us, I halved the original recipe which was good and bad…good because it created some form of portion control and bad… well because it created some form of portion control.  I honestly could have over-eaten myself sick on this and even now just typing up the post and seeing the pictures, I’m craving this corn.  Run, don’t walk and make this recipe, you won’t be sorry!


Creamed Corn with Cheese and Cilantro (adapted from here)

1 1/2 TBS butter
3/4 cup chopped scallions
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
4 cups frozen corn
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 ounces queso fresco, crumbled, plus a little extra for garnish
1/2 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar, plus a little extra for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus a little extra for garnish
2/3 cup cilantro sprigs, chopped.  plus extra leaves for garnish

Heat butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides.  Cook scallions stirring occasionally until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is softened a bit.  Add the corn, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes.
Stir together the cream and cornstarch in a small bowl until thoroughly combined and then add to the corn and simmer, stirring until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Using an immersion blender, place it in the pan and pulse in several places blending about a third of the corn mixture. Stir in the queso fresco, grated white cheddar, Parmesan and chopped cilantro and stir to mix.  Transfer corn to a large shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle on additional cheese and garnish with cilantro.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eggnog Popovers with Cranberry Butter


This is now my third month participating in the Improv Cooking Challenge which is hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.  Each month participating bloggers are given two ingredients and asked to make any recipe of their choosing which contains those two ingredients.  For the inaugural challenge in October, participants made recipes using caramel and apple and the Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies that I made were over the top wonderful.  November brought the seasonal flavor of pumpkin along with cream cheese and I made a beautiful and delicious Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake.  This month’s ingredients are so appropriate for this time of year, eggnog and cranberries.  I debated and debated with myself on what I wanted to make.  First it was a cake, then cookies, maybe ice cream with a topping or even fudge but in the end I decided to make Eggnog Popovers with Cranberry Butter.  One cold day I got a craving for popovers and thought that I’d see if I could substitute eggnog for the milk in my tried-and-true popover recipe and much to my delight it worked out wonderfully.  To incorporate the cranberries I decided to make a slightly sweet cranberry butter which when slathered on a hot popover was pure delight.  This recipe would be perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch as it really brings out the flavors of the season.

IMG_2571eEggnog Popovers with Cranberry Butter

1 cup eggnog
2 large eggs
1 TBS. vegetable oil
1 TBS. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Spray a six cup muffin tin with cooking spray and place it into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400F and allow it to come to temperature. While the pan is heating add all ingredients to your blender and process until very smooth. Once the oven reaches temperature allow the pan to continue heating for an additional two minutes. Once the pan is fully heated do not pull the pan from the oven but just slide out the rack with the pan on it and divide the mixture in the blender evenly between the six cups. Carefully slide the rack and muffin tin back into the oven. Do NOT open the oven for at least 30 minutes while the popovers bake. After 30 minutes check on them and depending on your oven they may need up to an additional 10 minutes to reach a deep brown color. Once fully baked, remove from the pan, break them open and add Cranberry butter, plain butter and/or jam or honey…DELISH!!

Cranberry Butter

4 TBS powdered sugar
8 TBS butter, softened
3/4 cup dried cranberries
zest of 1/2 an orange

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blend until everything is combined and the cranberries pieces are very small.  Chill. Serve with hot popovers.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Biscoff Fudge

IMG_2306eIt’s time again for my entry in the Crazy Cooking Challenge which is hosted each month by Tina of Moms Crazy Cooking.  Each month she challenges participating bloggers to search non-celebrity blogs looking for the ultimate recipe of the month and then to make and feature that recipe and the blog where we found it.  The first month we were challenged to find the ultimate mac & cheese recipe and I made a delicious Velvety Mac & Cheese.  The second month the challenge was chocolate chip cookies and for me, my ultimate was Chocolate Chip Gingersnaps and then last month it was a search for the ultimate mashed potatoes and I made some fabulous Aloo Tikki.  Each month it’s fun searching out recipes and then on reveal day seeing what everyone found and made.  

This month the challenge was to find the ultimate fudge recipe.  Trust me, once you start looking there are millions of fabulous looking fudge recipes out there so it was a bit overwhelming trying to narrow down my choices.  Generally my first thought when I hear the word fudge is chocolate…but truth be told I’m not a real chocolate fudge lover.  I started thinking about other fudge flavors and came to the conclusion that my favorite is penuche because honestly I could eat brown sugar off a spoon and be happy so turning that into fudge, well of course I love it.  In my search of penuche recipes I just happened upon Danielle’s blog Hugs & CookiesXOXO and her Biscoff Fudge…OMG!  Immediately I knew what I would be making because as luck would have it, I had just days earlier purchased a jar of Biscoff Spread and rather than spreading it on everything and anything that could be used as a vehicle to get it in my mouth or just spoon by spoon eat it from the jar, because it’s that stinking good, I figured why not put it in fudge and enjoy it that way. 

I’m telling you, Danielle’s recipe couldn’t be easier or tastier.  One bowl, a spoon, five ingredients, a pan and a little wait time so the fudge can set up and it’s pure Biscoff delight.  I followed Danielle’s recipe almost exactly, my only change was that I left out the chunks of Biscoff Cookies just because I prefer solid fudge without any crunchy bits or add-ins but I’ll bet it was just as good with the cookie bits mixed in.  Eammon, Maisie and I all loved this new, delicious and slightly different fudge and we’ll definitely be indulging in this sweet treat again and again. 

For us this Biscoff Fudge was the ultimate fudge recipe and we’d love if you thought so too and in the link of all the entries below if you’d “like” our Biscoff Fudge it would be much appreciated.  I hope that you’ll give this recipe a try and then come back and let me know how you liked it.  Thanks!

IMG_2271eMy best little helper Maisie did a great job mixing all the ingredients together.

IMG_2278eThen she did her best work licking out the bowl.

IMG_2295eBiscoff Fudge (Adapted very slightly from here)

1 cup butter
1 cup Biscoff Spread
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In a medium bowl, microwave the butter and Biscoff Spread until smooth.  Stir in the salt, vanilla and sugar.  Press into either a silicon or foil lined pan.  Chill in refrigerator until set.  Once firm cut into pieces.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Texas Chicken with Lime Butter

IMG_2340eHere we are, the first Monday of the month and it’s Secret Recipe Club time again…WOOHOO!!  I adore reveal day, not only posting the wonderful new recipe that I made but also checking out what all the other participants chose to make.  Each month the members of The Secret Recipe Club are assigned a blog from which they can make any recipe of their choosing.  It sounds easy enough but there are some amazing food bloggers in the group like my assignment this month, Si of A Bountiful Kitchen.  Si has a gorgeous blog and so many fabulous recipes that choosing just one was near impossible and though I’m only posting one recipe today, you will be seeing more of her recipes on my blog very soon. 

Si is from Bountiful, Utah and every time that I go out to Utah to visit friends in SLC the first place I ask to dine is at Cafe Rio because I absolutely adore their Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad and though here in Georgia, Chipotle has a pretty similar version, it’s just not the absolutely delicious same.  So right off the top when I saw that Si had a recipe for Cafe Rio Style Sweet Pork Salad I knew that was what I wanted to make.  The only problem was, I was completely slammed for time between Maisie’s schedule, her Level 3 Gymnastics State Meet, Maisie and I being sick, my parents coming to visit, Thanksgiving, cooking for the Level 2 & 4 State Meet which Maisie’s gym hosted and some travel thrown in, well looking at my first choice recipe was just more than I was able to handle as it included not only making the Sweet Pork but Black Beans, Cilantro Rice, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole and Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing and if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right and do it all.  Yes I probably could have pulled it off but when I make it, I want to be able to really enjoy it so I’m saving those recipes for another day. 

What I did decide to make was Si’s Texas Grilled Chicken with Lime Butter because one can never have too many good chicken recipes, it was something that would be an easy weeknight dinner and I knew from the flavors that we would adore it and I was right as we loved, loved, loved this recipe and it was so quick and easy to prepare and get on the table.  I had originally planned to grill the chicken outside but the night I made it we were having tornado watches and warnings and it was raining like nobody’s business so I high temp baked the chicken and it came out perfectly, nice, juicy and delicious.  My only other little change to Si’s recipe was I cut the butter and upped the lime juice in the lime butter sauce.  I’m even betting that I could make the spice coating for the chicken, pop the chicken into it and then freeze it so that when I wanted to prepare it it would be an easy thaw, quickly make the butter lime sauce and dinner would be on the table.  Either way, this recipe will be prepared time and time again in our home as it was absolutely delish!!

IMG_2344eTexas Chicken with Lime Butter (Adapted from here)

  • 4-5 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves

Spice coating for chicken:

Lime Butter:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Juice of half a lime, not out of the bottle
  • 1 Serrano chili, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced Vidalia onion 

In a large Ziploc bag combine all of the spice coating ingredients and smoosh to blend well.  Add the chicken to the spice mixture, squish it around to make sure all the pieces are covered with the spice coating and allow the chicken to marinate for a few hours or overnight.  Preheat oven to 450F.  Line a baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Lay the chicken breast pieces with what would have been the skin-side up, on the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

While the chicken is resting, in a small bowl combine the melted butter, lime juice, minced Serrano & onion. Drizzle the lime butter over the chicken pieces and garnish with fresh lime slices.


My previous Secret Recipe Club Recipe Posts:
Pork Belly Soup with Collard Greens 
Thin Mint Irish Coffee 
Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies 
Welsh Cakes 
Nutella Crêpes 
Cilantro Lime Chicken 
Holy Guacamole 
Home Style Chicken Curry

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crunchy Oat, Almond, Cashew & Pebbles Granola Bars

IMG_2526eNow that Maisie can’t eat things with wheat, egg whites or milk because of her food allergies I’ve been on the search to make convenience type foods that she can easily grab for breakfast or for a snack.  One of Maisie’s go-to foods has always been granola bars but after spending hours reading ingredient labels it seems that they all contain ingredients that she can’t have, unless I want to spend over $1 per bar and I’m just not willing to spend that much on something I can make myself.  I read dozens of recipes online and then thought about what Maisie would enjoy in a snack bar and these bars are my first attempt. 

These bars are really delicious and crunchy and all the adults loved them…and I’ve snacked on way too many.  At first Maisie wasn’t totally thrilled with them but by the second one they grew on her and then she started snacking on them and enjoying them too.  I think that Maisie is used to a chewier less crispy bar so the next batch I’ll add some rice crisps to lighten them up somewhat and hopefully we’ll have a winning recipe because granola bars are a huge snack for Maisie both at school and at the gym so we need to find that winning recipe for my girl.  I would though make these again because they’re really good and a great grab and stick in my purse snack on the go.

IMG_2519eI used a 9-by-13-inch Slice Solutions Pan which worked wonderfully, making 18 perfect bars.

IMG_2525e Crunchy Oat, Almond, Cashew & Pebbles Granola Bars

2 1/2 cups Oats
1/2 cup Cocoa Pebbles
1/2 cup Fruity Pebbles
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup salted cashews
1/4 cup Honey
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together until combined. Press into a 9x13-inch pan lined with foil and then press divider insert through the mixture and leave in place.   Bake 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately remove the divider insert or if not using a divider, cool for 10 minutes and score into bars. Let it set completely and then cut into bars.  Peel the foil from the bars and then wrap the bars individually so that they’re an easy to grab snack on the go.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Sour Cream

IMG_0198e Hands down these are the most delicious potatoes I have ever eaten and are worth every.single.carb-and-fat.calorie they contain.  Buttery, garlicky, fluffy on the inside and a little crispy on the outside.  Perfection!!

IMG_0184eAlso wonderful is that they’re simple to make.  Thinly slice fresh garlic and then slice partially through the potato a few times and insert the slices of garlic.

IMG_0189eThen toss in some melted butter and olive oil…YUM!  Sprinkle on some salt & freshly ground pepper and then pop in the oven.  The most difficult part, waiting the hour for the potatoes to finish cooking.


Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Sour Cream 

12 red new potatoes
5-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large cast iron skillet or oven safe casserole dish, melt the butter and olive oil together.  In the top of each potato, make several parallel slits making sure not to slice completely through. Place garlic slices into the slits on each potato. Toss the potatoes with the butter and olive oil mix and lay potatoes so that the cut sides are up.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Bake until the tops are crispy and potatoes are cooked through, about 1 hour. Transfer to a platter and serve with Garlic Sour Cream.

Garlic Sour Cream:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine sour cream & garlic powder in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper to taste and refrigerate until time to use.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Apple, Cranberry & Rhubarb Crisp

IMG_2503eI don’t particularly care for pie crusts but I enjoy the fillings so over the years I’ve realized that what I do really enjoy are crisps and they’re super simple and very forgiving to make.  Back in July I posted a recipe for a Rhubarb Crisp and because I love that crisp so much I decided that for Thanksgiving this year I would change it up a little adding apples and cranberries for a more seasonal taste and serve it for dessert.  In addition to the more seasonal fruit I changed the crisp topping ingredients to make it “safe” for Maisie and her food allergies.  The recipe worked out well, the dessert was delicious and a perfect finish to our Thanksgiving dinner.

IMG_2477eIn a large oven-safe casserole dish mix together the fruit and syrup.

IMG_2480eTop the fruit mixture with the oatmeal and nut crumble mixture.

IMG_2494e Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping has browned a bit.


Apple, Cranberry & Rhubarb Crisp

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled & large dice
1 pound ruby rhubarb, fresh or frozen, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS warm water

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup very roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats 
1/4 cup Earth Balance buttery spread

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large oven-safe casserole dish combine the lemon juice, sugar and water and stir to dissolve.  Add the apples, rhubarb & cranberries and stir to coat the fruit with the syrup.  In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and then add the walnuts, brown sugar and oats and using your fingers, mix to combine into a crumbly mix.  Sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake 40-50 minutes until the fruit is bubbly around the edges and the crisp has started to brown.  Serve warm or room temperature.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rum Cured Salmon

Back in February 2010 I posted Rum-Cured Salmon Summer Rolls and I posted the recipe for the salmon along with a single picture of the summer roll.  We honestly adore this salmon recipe and since I was making it again recently I decided to document the recipe.    

IMG_2001e1On a foil and then plastic wrapped sheet pan, place salmon skin side down and cover the salmon with the curing mixture.

IMG_2007e1Drizzle on the rum.

IMG_2010eCover the tray with plastic wrap and then place a second sheet pan directly on the salmon along with 5 pounds of weights and refrigerate for 18-24 hours.

IMG_2140eSalmon after curing overnight.

IMG_2142eScrape off the curing spices and pour off all the juices.

IMG_2160eThinly slice the salmon on the diagonal.

IMG_2149eDeliciousness on a plate.

IMG_2163eI used two filets totaling 3 pounds of salmon so I scaled the recipe below to fit my needs.  We enjoyed one filet and I froze the second one and we’re looking forward to enjoying it very soon.

Rum Cured Salmon

1 cup (lightly packed) chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
3 TBS. Sichuan peppercorns, cracked
one 2-pound fresh salmon fillet with skin still attached (I use steelhead salmon)
1/3 cup dark rum

In a bowl, combine the cilantro, brown sugar, salt, ginger and Sichuan peppercorns.  Line a sheet pan with foil and then cover the foil with plastic wrap.  Place the salmon on the prepared pan skin side down. Press the cilantro mixture evenly over the fish and then drizzle the rum over the salmon.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the salmon, covering completely. Place a second sheet pan directly on top of the covered salmon and then place about 5-pounds of weight on top of that. Refrigerate for no less than 18 hours and no more than 24.

After salmon has cured, scrape off the curing mixture and discard. Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon into thin slices on the diagonal. Store the salmon for up to a week in a tightly sealed, air squeezed out, Ziplock bag or freeze the the entire filet for later use.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apple Dumplings

IMG_1944e Recently I saw a recipe for apple dumplings on Tina’s blog, Moms Crazy Cooking and they looked so easy and delicious I just had to make them.

IMG_1898e When I say easy, I mean easy.  Peel and slice an apple.

IMG_1902e Wrap each apple slice in a triangle of refrigerated crescent dough.

IMG_1907e Lay the wrapped apples in a greased pan.

IMG_1909e Pour on a mixture of melted butter, sugar and vanilla.

IMG_2209e Spread on some partially thawed apple  juice concentrate and add some water.  

IMG_2214eSprinkle with cinnamon and chopped pecans and then bake. 

Like I said, super simple and what you get are hot and delicious apple dumplings.

IMG_1939e Apple Dumplings (Adapted from here)

1 stick butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups sugar
1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls
1 granny smith apples
1/2 can frozen apple juice concentrate
1/4 cup water
ground cinnamon 
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Peel and slice your apples. Wrap each slice in a crescent dough triangle and place in a sprayed (greased) 8x8-inch pan.  In a bowl melt the butter and then lightly stir in the sugar and vanilla so that the mixture remains grainy. Pour over top of the wrapped apples. Spread the frozen apple concentrate over the wrapped apples and pour in the water.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and pecans. Place in 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Thank you to everyone who commented and emailed with food suggestions, websites and links in helping me with food substitutions and suggestions so that I can feed Maisie with her recently diagnosed allergy to wheat, milk and egg whites.  I am beginning to find my way and hopefully soon I’ll easily be cooking up a storm of wonderful foods that are safe for Maisie to eat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

HELP!!! What do I feed her?

My foodie friends I need your help.  Last Friday I took Maisie in for her yearly physical and while the doctor said she was doing great and she’s healthy, strong and growing along her percentile curve she was concerned about Maisie’s allergies.  We have never had Maisie tested for allergies and I guess that it was always assumed that she had pollen allergies but lately pollen counts are at almost zero and Maisie is still suffering.  So last Friday they drew blood and today the doctor called with the results and that’s why I need your help.  Maisie’s tests showed that she didn’t have any pollen or environmental allergies but that she is allergic to egg whites, milk and wheat.  Just frikkin great because that accounts for all her favorite foods.

IMG_2204eIt’s ironic because just yesterday on our family blog, Moments with Maisie, I posted that Maisie eats Nutella on wheat bread almost every morning and now there is nothing in that sentence which she can have as obviously the bread has wheat and Nutella contains milk…Cr@p!!

Maisie’s favorite foods are pasta, cheese, Nutella, eggs and dumplings and it’s from the cheese, Nutella, eggs and dumplings where she gets most of her protein as she’s not a huge meat eater.  So my dear helpful readers I need your help with food options for my girl as I have no idea what to feed her now that I need to remove egg whites, milk and wheat from her diet and I’m freaking out!  Truly, anyone who has experience with this I would appreciate your comments and recipe suggestions. 

In other food related news, I still have to plan my Thanksgiving menu but just haven’t had time to think about it yet.  I do know that we are going to have Spice Rubbed Turkey with Cognac Gravy, the same turkey as last year as it was freaking amazing and I don’t even really care for turkey but I’m looking forward to having this one again.  Past the turkey I just don’t know yet but I’ll figure it out.  If you’re still looking for a fabulous turkey recipe, just click on the picture to be taken to the recipe.

Spice Rubbed Turkey with Cognac Gravy


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake

IMG_2055eHere we are already, the second month of the Improv Cooking Challenge which is now being hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.  How this challenge works is, each month two ingredients are assigned and you can make any recipe of your choice as long as it includes those two ingredients.  Last month, for the inaugural challenge all the participants made recipes using caramel and apple and I have to say, the Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies that I made were over the top wonderful.  I loved seeing all the other wonderful caramel and apple recipes, eighty-two to be exact, that the other participants submitted and if you’re interested in seeing them all, just click over to my Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies post and scroll to the bottom to see all the submissions. 

This month we were challenged to make a recipe which included cream cheese and pumpkin and to this end I decided on a Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I decided that I would use a basic cheesecake recipe that I have been using for decades and that I would change it up a bit and get that pumpkin pie flavor in there.  Next I chose to not only top it with praline but to also carry those flavors through by only using brown sugar throughout the cake and also by adding pecans to the crust.  In the end I managed to make one of the best cheesecakes I have ever made.  The flavor of the brown sugar with the pumpkin, the spices, the toasted nuts, well they melded perfectly and this recipe is going to be made again and again.  I hope that you’ll give this cheesecake a try as it’s beyond delicious and a perfect dessert to grace your holiday table.

IMG_1965eThe crust came together quickly as all the ingredients went into the food processor.

IMG_1969eA couple spins of the blade and the crust was ready to bake.

IMG_1972ePress the crust ingredients into the bottom of a 10-by-3 inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes.

IMG_1976eWhile the crust bakes and cools, drain the pumpkin squeezing out as much liquid as possible.

IMG_1979eOnce the crust is baked and cooled place the pan in an oven bag and roll down the edges.  I find that the oven bags are easier and work much better than layers of foil for keeping the water out of the pan.

IMG_1984ePour the filling over the crust and then put the pan into a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with hot water so that it comes half way up the springform pan.

IMG_1986eCheesecake, crack free since it was cooked in a water bath.

IMG_2026eOnce the cheesecake is cooled completely top with the praline topping and chill to allow the topping to set.

 IMG_2057e Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin 
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups brown sugar 
2 tsp. roasted ground cinnamon 
1 tsp. ground ginger  
1/2 tsp. allspice 
1/2 tsp. ground cloves 
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg 

1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBS. butter
1 TBS vanilla extract 
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to at 375°F.

To make the crust:  In a food processor pulse the pecans, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, flour, butter and egg yolk until fully mixed. Press into the bottom of 10-by-3 inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Once the crust is cooled completely, put the pan into a large oven bag and roll down the edges so that they are the same height as the pan.

Once the crust has baked, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

To make the filling:  Drain the pumpkin purée by placing it on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional layers of paper towels and use your hands to gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the purée.  In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Scrape down the bowl and add the pumpkin purée and mix until well blended.  Add the egg, sour cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and nutmeg and blend until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and then transfer the oven bag lined pan to a large roasting pan and place in the preheated 325°F oven.  Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan.  Bake the cheesecake for 60 minutes and then turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes longer.  Lift the cheesecake from inside the oven bag and keeping the cake in the springform pan, place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the praline topping: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the pecans, single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden and aromatic. Coarsely chop the nuts. Stir together the brown sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil the mixture for about 1 1/2 minutes making sure it does not boil over. Do not stir. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, and pecans. Cool the praline about 30 minutes so that it thickens up some before pouring over the top of the chilled cheesecake. Pour over the cheesecake and then chill a few hours or overnight allowing the praline to harden a bit.  When ready to serve, if necessary, run a sharp knife around the inside of the springform pan before opening the clasp and removing the ring.


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