cookies and cream mini cheesecakes

Technology is a great thing. Very helpful. Extremely convenient. My teens have cell phones and we find it’s easier to text each other rather than yell up or down the stairs to get someone’s attention. We also email often when there is important information we need to tell each other, usually including a link or other pertinent details, such as SAT test dates at school or deadlines for things, etc. (This is especially helpful for me since my old brain forgets most everything five minutes after I hear it.)

Over the weekend I got an email from my daughter. She was up in her bedroom, I was down on the main level. The subject line was “YUM” and along with the links to three recipes was the following text:

I’m definitely making one…or all of these tomorrow. I’m feeling a baking spree coming on.

This is a perfect example of using email for important things! The next day we went shopping for the necessary ingredients, then went home and she started baking.

Of the three recipes she chose to make cookies and cream mini cheesecakes first. I’m very glad she did because I was having a not so great day — the kind of day where cheesecake makes all my problems go away (okay, temporarily, but still…).

Isn’t technology great!

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Note: The recipe came from Handle the Heat. In her post it states she got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook.

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Cookies and Cream Mini Cheesecakes

42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos (store-brand works great), 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped (*Note: We chopped them by putting the cookies into a large plastic zipper bag, removing as much air as possible, sealing it, then crushing the cookies using a potato masher.)

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 cup sour cream

Pinch of salt

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Heat oven to 275F. *Note: I thought this sounded too low, but after doing a bit of research, I confirmed it is listed correctly. I also found that the recommended temperature for baking cheesecake is 300-325F, therefore 275F is close enough to not be a problem.

Line muffin tins with paper liners and place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each. *Note: The recipe says it makes 30, yet we had extra of the cream cheese mixture and ended up making 36, therefore don’t eat all the extra cookies until you know for sure how many you’ll need!

In an electric mixer beat cream cheese until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of bowl.

Gradually add sugar. Mix until combined.

Add vanilla and mix well.

Slowly add the beaten eggs, mixing well to combine into the cream cheese mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the sour cream and the salt.

Add the chopped cookies and mix by hand or on low speed.

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Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined muffin tins, filling each almost to the top.

Bake about 22 to 25 minutes, until filling is set. It will help to rotate the muffin tins halfway through.

Allow the muffin tins to cool completely on wire racks, then refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. *Note: The waiting is the hardest part of this recipe.

sliced baked potatoes

I love potatoes. So does my daughter. She’s one of the only people on the planet that will not eat pasta. So when I serve pasta she’ll just toss a potato into the oven to have a baked potato with her meal instead.

The other day we were talking about other ways to bake it, and she asked if I’ve ever sliced it before baking it. I remembered that years ago I had, but not since. So we decided to do it again.

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This is so simple, yet takes the potato to a completely different level. It looks great and each slice is crispy on the outside.

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Wash the potatoes.

Using a large wooden spoon or spatula as a barrier (to prevent the knife from slicing all the way down, as I did on the first few slices) slice each potato thinly.

Place potatoes onto a foil lined baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Rub in the oil so that it gets into each section.

Season with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Rosemary would also be nice. Or any herb or spice you enjoy.

Bake at 400F for about an hour.

*Note: Baking times vary due to size of potato and your oven!!!!*

Enjoy!

waste free lunches

I don’t want to say this too loudly, in case the children hear and get upset, but school starts in one month.

In addition to getting all the necessary school supplies before the start of school, I also need to get everything ready to send lunches each school day. It’s a big task, preparing multiple lunches morning after morning, but I prefer that over the summertime “what’s for lunch?” question that comes every day at noon.

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My oldest son, now in college, wasn’t able to eat the cafeteria lunches due to food allergies. Every day we had to make a lunch from home. He enjoyed variety, actually preferred something different every day, so that kept me on my toes.

My daughter is in high school, and since 1st grade has only purchased school lunch maybe half a dozen times. That’s right, half a dozen times in ten years of school. Which means I’ve prepared close to two thousand school lunches for her. She’s a picky eater and doesn’t like school cafeteria lunches (I can’t blame her… I’ve had them a few times when I was a substitute teacher, and found them to be on the yucky side), and she is happy with the same lunch brought from home each and every day. The exact same lunch … each and every day.

Next month my youngest will be starting full day school, and due to his food allergies it is best if I make his lunch. Plus he’s even pickier than his sister, so those cafeteria lunches wouldn’t work for him, even if allergies weren’t an issue. He’s the type that will get bored with the same thing every day, so I’m thinking up lots of different items that will make his lunch something that he will actually eat.

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Having put together so many school lunches throughout the years, I know what works for my children. And I know how many plastic zipper baggies I’ve used. I’m trying to be more friendly to our environment, so in the past few years I’ve purchased a few products that help me reduce the waste in the lunches I send to school. This year I’ll be even better, because there are new products that I’ve found which make this task even easier. If all goes according to plan, I won’t use any plastic baggies from now on. Yahoo!

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I’ve ordered some of these products at reuseit, some at amazon, and some at L.L. Bean, and have found others at local stores such as Target and Marshall’s and World Market.

The products I use and love:

Sporks!

LOVE LOVE LOVE these. Just flip from one side to the other when you need a spoon or a fork. On the bigger ones there is a serrated edge, which can come in handy, but not necessary for most of the lunches I make. Dishwasher safe. No more disposable plastic silverware for us!

LunchSkins sandwich bags

These LunchSkins sandwich bags are great for my daughter’s daily turkey on wheat. Unlike other brands I’ve tried, the Velcro seal on this brand goes the whole way across, keeping the sandwich fresh and protected. And you simply turn them inside out to wash them by hand or in the dishwasher. We’ve also used them for pretzels and chips, but by lunch time my daughter said the dry snacks came out of the bag soft. This year we’ll be using something else for dry snacks  (see below for the cute containers I just bought).

The lunch bag

These lunch bags are wonderful! The ones we use are from Built NY. They can fit all different sizes of containers and they come in fun designs and colors. I was frustrated with other lunch bags that didn’t offer flexibility and made me angry when I found myself having to use plastic baggies rather than small containers, in order to fit the lunch in the bag. This one is by far the best lunch bag I’ve found. It can hold a large lunch with snacks and drinks, fits into my daughter’s backpack, and is lightweight. And it can be machine washed if/when it gets dirty. Love it!

Something to put the drink in

My daughter is not a milk drinker, so each day I either send a juice box, or a container with water or juice (more economical as well as less waste, in comparison to the juice box). I like these Klean Kanteen containers (mine were purchased at L.L. Bean), and the 12 ounce size is perfect for lunch (when sending juice I don’t fill the container completely). They have never leaked and the sport cap is convenient. They are also dishwasher safe.

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Containers for dry snacks

And new for this school year, and so that I can stop using disposable plastic baggies, I purchased these Rubbermaid Blox containers for dry snacks (found them at Target). In addition to snapping together, which I know my young son will find fun, they come in different sizes for all sorts of lunch foods, and are BPA-free and dishwasher safe (yes, I love when things are easy to clean, especially when we are using them daily).

Another similar product for dry snacks are these clic-tite containers that I found at Marshall’s. They don’t click together as the Rubbermaid ones do, but the lids click on and off easily. Dishwasher safe and BPA-free.

All-In-One lunch container

Another great idea I found online (and of course can not locate right now to give proper credit) is to use a divided rectangle BPA-free plastic container (the one I found at Target is made by Ziploc), and by using silicone baking molds (the kind you would use for cupcakes), put little bits of different food items into the lunch. The sections keep all the food in place, and with only one lid to open, lunch is ready to eat quickly. This is a great option for young children. When done eating, put the lid back on, take it home, and clean it out to be ready for the next day. No waste (okay, in the photo below there will be waste from the applesauce, but when these single serve cups of applesauce are done I will start using applesauce from a jar and put it in the smaller section).

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Oh, one more thing. Toss in a cloth napkin instead of a paper one. This will make the whole lunch waste free. As with all the reusable lunch items, just remind your children not to throw it away when lunch is done!

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If you will be making lunches for your children soon (or if you take a lunch yourself) I hope you find these products useful in creating waste free lunches. Now go enjoy what’s left of summer!

spice rub for fish (or chicken or burgers)

Recently I was gone for two weeks with the two younger children. My husband and 19 year old son stayed home due to their work schedules. One thing they made quite often during that time was fish. My husband loves fish and they both love spicy food, so he did some searching (in recipe books and online) and found a few ways to cook fish to his liking. One recipe called for marinating the fish for a few hours in an olive oil and lemon combination. Another recipe was for a dry spice rub that goes onto the fish right before cooking. He took both these ideas and used them to cook a few different varieties of fish.

Couple things:

  • Today we didn’t allow the fish to spend more than five minutes in the oil and lemon, because we forgot and ran out of time.
  • The dry spice rub recipe came from the Cook This, Not That: Kitchen Survival Guide.
  • My husband and son loved this spice rub so much on fish, that they also put it on chicken and on burgers and declared all of it delicious!

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Spice Rub

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon each of the following:

paprika

cayenne pepper

cumin

oregano

black pepper

salt, optional (*Note: My husband did not put in any salt, though the recipe called for it.)

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Today I purchased one pound of cod fillets.

Into a small bowl, we combined 2 tablespoons olive oil with the juice and pulp from half a lemon. We poured this over the fish fillets and coated both sides of each piece of fish.

Then we took a few spoonfuls of the spice rub and sprinkled it on each side of the fish fillets. (*Note: This is spicy, and I can’t handle as much spice as my husband and son, so on one piece I went very light with the spice rub.)

Using the backside of a fork I pressed the spice rub into both sides of each piece of fish. (That’s my piece on the left in the next photo.)

We placed the prepared fish into a foil packet and sealed the edge closed. This was put onto the hot grill.

After 5 minutes we flipped the foil packet and cooked it on the second side for 4 minutes.

The fish was so tender it flaked apart very easily.

Delicious!

a list of chocolate frosting & chocolate chip cookie recipes

As with all blogs, some readers arrive here due to online searches. Quite often the search terms that lead readers to this blog are for chocolate chip cookies and chocolate frosting. (It’s good to know there are so many others out there who enjoy chocolate as much as I do!)

To make it easier to find all the different recipes for these searched items, I’m listing them here with links to each one. Hope this helps … and welcome new readers!

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Frosting:

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Frosting #2

Chocolate Frosting

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And if you’re looking for frosting that isn’t chocolate:

Vanilla/White Frosting

Orange Frosting

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

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Cookies:

Double Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies #3

Jumbo Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

double chocolate cookies

Haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been away. Not much cooking for me these past two weeks. Lots of eating out. Great restaurants and amazing bakeries, but my own cooking and baking has been severely limited.

Today was my day to finally go to the grocery store to fill up the house with food. While I was gone I left the kids at home (ahhhh, one of the joys of having teenagers!).  When I returned I unlocked the front door, opened it, and inhaled chocolatey goodness! My teen daughter had made double chocolate cookies, per my 6 year old’s request. Bonus!

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The whole time on vacation, baked goods were plentiful at the bakeries, yet my poor little man couldn’t always enjoy them due to his severe tree nut allergy. Most of the bakeries and chocolate shops (chocolate shops!!!!) had cross-contamination issues. Therefore we promised the boy that when we returned home we would make him a large batch of delicious cookies that he could eat. Today was the day to fulfill that promise.

My wonderful and kind and amazing teen daughter made the cookies while I was at the store. She found a recipe that we hadn’t tried before, but it came from Ghiradelli so it was pretty much a given that it would be good. She said the batter was a bit thinner than expected (hello! this recipe has barely any flour!), but the cookies didn’t spread at all, so it all worked out well. The consensus is that they taste like a combined cookie and brownie. Otherwise known as a taste of heaven.

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Double Chocolate Cookies

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bars, broken into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips (*we used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

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Heat oven to 350F.

Melt baking chocolate according to directions on package.

Stir in the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.

Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and mix well.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by 1/4 cup onto ungreased baking sheets, or baking sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE.

Cool for one minute on baking sheet, then remove to cooling rack.

*Note: This recipe only makes about a dozen or a dozen and a half cookies. It’s pretty much melted chocolate with a bit of flour. Yum!