Friday, January 21, 2011

Double-Layer Sourcream Cheesecake -- mmm, mmm, Smmmmexy!

Double-Layer Sour Cream Cheesecake

This wonderful recipe is adapted from the sourcream cheesecake in Joy of Cooking, with a thicker 1/2-inch sourcream top layer, and convenient amounts of sourcream and cream cheese. It's actually quite easy, except that it is baked and cooled in three stages, with the final directions being to chill for 6 to 10 hours -- worth it, even though it is so hard to wait!  If you want it for dinner, you should start it early in the morning.

Step 1: Make the graham cracker crust.

  • Graham crackers, enough to make 1 1/2 cups, one wrapped packet is perfect
  • Powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (it's still good without this, but divine with it!)
  • Butter, 6 Tablespoons, or 3/4 stick, melted 

Break up the graham crackers as you drop them in a blender.

Pulse briefly several times, until the graham crackers are fine crumbs

Dump the crumbs into the pie pan.

Add the powdered sugar and melted butter.

Blend with a fork.

Mush firmly into the pie pan until you have formed a crust. Be as neat as you like. Mine isn't very neat. (^_^)

Bake the crust in a 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes.

Let it cool; about half an hour.

Step 2: Make the bottom layer of the cheesecake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, blend:

  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • Cream cheese, 2 8-oz bricks
  • Sugar 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Fill the pie shell. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool; about an hour. Sprinkle cinammon over the top.

Step 3: Make the sour cream top layer of the cheesecake.

  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together:

  • Sour cream, 16 oz 
  • Sugar, 1/4 cup 
  • Vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
Plop blobs of the mixture over the top of the cheesecake, and use a spatula to smooth the top.

Bake for 5 minutes to glaze the top.

Allow to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for 6 to 10 hours. (The hardest part of the whole recipe!)

And now you have it!  mmmm, mmmm, Smmmmexy Cheesecake!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Split Pea Soup makes us Hap-Pea!

Just made a hurry-up soup without meat -- and found it to be a real treat, and so simple to make!  And with no added salt, no meat, and only a little healthy fat -- this is super healthy.  With the rosemary, we didn't miss any of the unhealthy ingredients.  Some folks had a turkey sandwich with it, on whole wheat bread, of course!

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup with Rosemary
  • 2 cups (one package) split peas, rinsed & drained
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • Onion, 1 medium, chopped
  • Celery, 4 stalks, chopped
  • Carrots, 8 large, one chopped, the rest cut in large pieces
  • "Better than Boullion" chicken flavor, 1 Tablespoon
  • Rosemary, 4 6-inch fresh sprigs, with the needles pulled off the stems, chopped if desired
  • Water, about 8 cups

  1. Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat; add chopped onions, celery, and carrot, and stir occassionally until browned.  I use a flat-edged metal spatula to scrape the bottom and stir.
  2. Add a cup of water, the chicken base, and rosemary; stir to blend. 
  3. Add the rest of the water and the split peas.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer about 30 minutes.
  4. Add carrots to the pot, and simmer another 30 minutes.

Split Pea Soup with Ham
  • 2 cups split peas
  • Ham bone or 2 square inches salt pork (optional)
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Small onion
  • Celery, 3 or 4 stalks, with leaves
  • Carrots, 3 or 4 large
  • Herbs & spices to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chopped ham (optional, but very good)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Rinse and drain split peas. Put peas in large, heavy pot or Dutch oven with 10 cups of water, salt and ham bone or salt pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer with the lid on for 90 minutes.
  2. Chop carrots and add to the pot for another 30 minutes.
  3. Chop onion, and celery, and finely mince rosemary. Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet, and sautee them on high heat until browned and limp.  Add to the soup pot, along with the other herbs, garlic, and chicken base.
  4. In the skillet, make a roux with the butter, olive oil, and flour:
    • To do this, heat the butter and oil, then quickly whisk or stir in the flour.  I like to use a flat edge metal spatula, because it allows me to cleanly and quickly scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning and sticking.  This roux is to used to add a little flavor and thickness to the soup.  Let it brown, while watching it carefully, over high heat.  Once it smells good and is a little brown (not necessarily as dark as for gumbo, when I want to see a dark peanut butter brown), scrape it into the soup pot.  You can deglaze the pan by pouring a little of the soup into the pan, stir/scrape it around, then scrape that into the soup pot.  Cook another 30 minutes.
  5.  Puree the soup in the blender.  Have a large bowl on hand, and fill the blender about 3/4 full, blend to desired consistency (I prefer it finely chunky, not smooth), and pour into bowl.  Continue until all the soup has been pureed, then return to the soup pot.
  6. Add the chopped ham, and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about 10 minutes.
Serve with a crusty loaf of sourdough French bread, and enjoy!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Southern Pecan Pie -- might think you're in New Orleans when you taste it!

This pie was one of the first really special recipes I ever perfected.  I started out in cooking as a girl making deserts for the family -- then, as now, I was motivated to cook what I wanted to EAT!  We recently took a trip to New Orleans, and I can honestly say, this is as good or better than any we had there --WONDERFUL!  It is essentially a Joy of Cooking  recipe, but there are a few tips I will offer.  One is to not try to use too many pecans.  The treat of this pie is the buttery, caramelly gel filling, soaked into the buttery crust, and it needs the perfect amount of pecans just to make a crunchy top.  Another tip is to use fresh pecans, and a good tasting pie crust, whether it is "store bought" or you make your own.  I find it works better to use a large pie-making dish, rather than one of those teensy, flimsy aluminum ones. Finally, in good Southern tradition, I love the taste of rum in pecan pie, instead of vanilla.  Trial and error has taught me that the maximum amount of rum that can go in this pie, and still have it set firm, is 4 Tablespoons!  I highly recommend using all four. (~_^)

Southern Pecan Pie
  • Pie crust, partially baked, then cooled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 4 Tablespoons rum  (at least 1 Tablespoon; or could use 1T vanilla)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine and beat thoroughly all the ingredients except the pecans and rum.
  3. Stir in the pecans and rum.
  4. Fill the pie shell, and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean.
Serve warm or cold; I like it room temperature.  This is wonderful alone, and it also goes very well with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

(Purple?) Pan Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

Gravy is a bit decadent, and my recipe is not low-calorie. But, man, is it good! There are so many sites that talk about making gravy, and I think they make a very simple thing waaaaay too hard.

I'll share my version -- it's quick, easy, and soooooo good!

Oh, and purple gravy? That just so happened to happen one night, when I used some very dark red wine that I love, Nero d'Avola, the black grape wine of Sicily. Archero's Nero D'Avola, from Trader Joe's is only $4.99 a bottle, and wonderful.

Check it out at

Pan Gravy
This goes VERY quickly, so have all ingredients at hand before starting, as well as your whisk and spatula.


  • The skillet or roasting pan full of brown bits and juices, from which the chicken, turkey, roast, etc. has been removed to rest, before carving and serving (greatly improves tenderness and juiciness!)
  • About 1/4 cup of liquid with which to deglaze the pan -- I've successfully used balsamic vinegar, beer, red wine, stock, broth, V-8 juice, milk, and evaporated milk!
  • Flour, 1 or 2 Tablespoons
  • Butter, 1 pat
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Put the pan over medium high heat -- if it is a large roasting pan, you may want to put it over two burners.
  2. Pour in the deglazing liquid, and as it starts to bubble, use a flat edge metal spatula to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan -- these bring on the wonderful flavor.
  3. Quickly whisk in a tablespoon or so of the flour until completely blended, then cook about 30 seconds, constantly scraping along the bottom of the pan with the spatula.
  4. Carefully determine whether your gravy needs a bit more flour -- it will thicken quickly over the heat. If it gets too thick, you can whisk in more liquid.
  5. When it looks about right, turn off the heat, and TIP: stir in the pat of butter, along with salt and pepper to taste. I got this tip somewhere, and it really does add a little je ne sais quoi (something special, I don't know what) to a hot sauce or gravy.
  6. Pour it into your gravy server, and be sure to make some mashed potatoes, biscuits, rolls, or something so that folks can really enjoy the wonderful pan gravy you've just made -- even if it turns out to be PURPLE!

Marvelous Mashed Potatoes with Skins

Mashed potatoes are very flexible, and can be made with all kinds of potatoes, or blends, even including sweet potatoes or yams, without tasting 'weird." I've found that leaving the skins on doesn't bother anyone in my family, and it definitely adds to the nutrition. Mashed potatoes taste wonderful with all kinds of dairy fat, and if you want to go richer, you can add sour cream, cream cheese, cream, or more butter. But we are trying to be healthy, here, and after all, if you're going to serve these with gravy, no need to go overboard on the butter! On the other end of things, you can make these with nothing but low-fat milk, and skip the butter altogether. Here's one good version, somewhat balanced between lower fat and higher deliciousness!


  • 2 Idaho potatoes, large
  • 4 red potatoes, medium
  • 1 yam, pealed, optional
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Butter, 1/4 cup
  • Salt & pepper
  • Milk, about 1/2 cup


  1. Microwave cook the potatoes, in their own jackets. Cook for about 4 minutes, then rotate all the potatoes, and pinch them for doneness. Cook another 3 minutes, check, and continue cooking until soft when you pinch them.
  2. In a large bowl, put in all the potatoes, oil, butter, salt & peper to taste. With a hand mixer, smash the potatoes a bit, then blend them a bit, but not too much -- over mixing makes them have a gooey texture, and we like ours lumpy. The potato skins will tear apart and blend in.
  3. Add the milk, beating very briefly, add more milk if desired, and mix until the thickness and texure are how you like your mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rosemary Roast Chicken, Biscuits, and Ginger Carrots

This is one of the simplest and best recipes, smells and tastes amazing, with crackly skin and onions. It can be used on chicken pieces, or on a whole chicken, and it is easy and delicious, and quite economical if shopping the sales. If roasting a whole chicken, blend butter and seasonings, and rub under the skin, from the breast, down the legs. Our family likes chicken thighs, and since these were on sale the other day, I made this a couple of nights ago, and we are still enjoying the leftovers. The night after I make this, I like to make something that uses the drippings from the chicken, such as black bean soup. Leftovers can also make a wonderful and fast chicken noodle soup.

Rosemary Roast Chicken
  • Chicken, about 6 lbs of thighs
  • Fresh rosemary, several sprigs
  • Oregano, powdered, 1 T
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Onions, 2 small yellow
  • Celery, 4 stalks
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Rinse chicken including under the skin, drain, and place pieces into two large casserole dishes.
  3. Finely chop the rosemary, and sprinkle over chicken. Sprinkle oregano, salt, & pepper over chicken.
  4. Chop onions and celery into small pieces and scatter over chicken.
  5. Bake for an hour. At 40 minutes, pull casseroles out of oven and baste the chicken with the juices that have accumulated below.
  6. Pull out of oven, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This made plenty for a family of four, plus leftovers. You could easily halve the recipe, but the larger quantity is often on sale. Don't forget to save the "juices" to use in tomorrow's recipe!
I served this with Ginger Carrots and with biscuits. Usually, I would do mashed potatoes, instead of biscuits, and make gravy. But this time, the biscuits were delicious dipped in the chicken broth, even without making a gravy.
Ginger Carrots
  • carrots, 1/2 lb, snack size
  • Ginger, 1 to 2 T
  • Honey, 1 to 2 T
  • Butter, 1 to 2 T
  1. In a microwave dish, stir all ingredients together, and cover dish.
  2. Microwave 3 minutes on high, stir, then microwave 2 minutes, stir.
  3. Remove cover and microwave 1 minute to thicken sauce.

Black Bean Soup with Sausage and Potatoes

This is awesome to make the day after Rosemary Roast Chicken, because the flavors from the chicken drippings are wonderful in the Black Bean Soup. If making the soup without the chicken drippings, one could substitute as told below.

Black Bean Soup with Sausage and Potatoes


  • Black beans, 1 lb dry
  • Water, 6 cups
  • Chicken drippings, fat, and juices from earlier dinner -- (or substitute for water and chicken drippings: 6 cups of chicken broth, 1 T rosemary, 1/2 T oregano, and 1/2 cup of oil or fat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red potatoes, 7 medium, in large chunks
  • Carrots, 1/2 lb, snack size (yams or sweet potatoes are also good)
  • Sweet Italian sausage, 4 links
  • Balsamic vinegar, 2 T (or red wine or beer)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Onions, 2 small yellow, chopped


  1. Soak the beans overnight, drain and rinse the next day.
  2. For dinner to be ready about 7:00 PM, start the beans about noon.In a large, heavy pot with a lid, bring the beans, salt, pepper, 6 cups of water, and chicken drippings (or substitutes) to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
  3. Simmer all afternoon, stirring occassionally. (Note that the pot should be a good heavy one, to avoid burning and sticking.)
  4. About an hour before meal time, add the potatoes and carrots to the soup pot.
  5. In a skillet, brown and cook the sausage, cutting it into 1-inch chunks with the spatula. Add the sausage to soup pot.
  6. Deglaze the skillet with balsamic vinegar, or red wine, or beer, and add to the soup pot. (Deglazing sounds fancy, but it's very simple, and captures a lot of flavor. To deglaze a pan, pour about 2 T of liquid into the pan over heat, let it bubble up and evaporate a bit, while scraping up all the bits in the pan with a spatula. It also makes for an easier pan to wash.)
  7. Add oil to the pan and saute the onions. When soft and browned, add to the soup pot. Deglaze the pan again and add to the soup pot.
  8. Continue to simmer about an hour longer, until potatoes and carrots are easily pierced with a fork.

Invite your friends over, or plan on leftovers. But no complaints, this is super yummy. It's also good with other vegetables, such as celery or spinach. I like to serve it with cornbread.