Sunday, January 20, 2008


We're getting ready to head out to San Diego to visit our son with a side trip to Vegas, so this is going to be my last post for a few weeks. I thought I was going to post a dessert, but the dessert never got made. Instead I ran to three stores to find ingredients for a cookie recipe to enter a contest that has a looming deadline.
Anyway, here's a good recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that I developed. The real secret to good spaghetti sauce is the tomatoes -- use the best qualilty tomatoes you can find and afford. I used Furmano's this time, but Tuttorosso are better. (I've been told that Muir Glen and San Marzano are also very good, but haven't tried them yet.) Roasting tomatoes brings out a more intense flavor and really enhances the sauce. (BTW, we have an even better recipe for sauce, but Guy won't let me share it. I'm working on him, though.)

Judy's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tomato Sauce
28-oz. can whole Italian-style plum tomatoes, divided use
salt and pepper
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic (I grated it)
4 Tbsp. tomato paste (I used Contadina plain tomato paste, not flavored)
15-1/2 oz. can tomato sauce (I used Contadina plain tomato sauce)
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. crushed anise seed
1 Tbsp. crushed dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil)
1/2 tsp. crushed dried oregano
pinch cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 9x12 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Take whole tomatoes out of can, slit each open and squeeze or cut most of the seeds out. Place the tomatoes in the baking pan and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Roast for 1/2 hour; transfer to cooling rack.

In large heavy stockpot, saute the onions in the remaining olive oil over medium heat, till transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the paste, reserved can juice from the tomatoes, the can of sauce and the roasted tomatoes and stir well, mashing down the roasted tomatoes with spatula or spoon. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a high simmer. Cook sauce uncovered for about 1 hour, or to desired consistency, stirring as needed; then cover and simmer on low for another half hour or till sauce ingredients have blended.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground turkey
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic (I used McCormick California garlic blend with parsley)
1/4 tsp. crushed anise seed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1/2 cup dried in the oven, then crumbled whole-wheat bread (I used Peppridge Farm WW)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed, preferably golden
1 tsp. crushed dried basil
1/4 tsp. crushed dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil for rolling meatballs
DIRECTIONS: Reduce oven heat to 350F after taking tomatoes out. Spray a 10 x 15-1/2 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the meat in a large bowl or in the 10 x 15-1/2 pan. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, using about 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and about 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, using a wooden spoon, spatula or clean hands. Add more water if mixture is too stiff. Pour the olive oil into a small custard cup. Using an ice cream scoop dipped into the oil, scoop out a portion of meat, then roll into a ball with hands that have been dipped into the oil. Bake for 1/2 hour - 40 minutes, shaking the pan or turning meatballs over with spoon halfway through. Transfer to sauce pot and finish cooking the meatballs with the sauce.
TIPS: Best pastas: DeCecco, Barilla, Ronzoni (Ronzoni makes a line called Healthy Harvest, which is a 7-grain blend and it's very good. Guy won't eat it because he says pasta is supposed to be white, to which I responded that brown whole grains came before white, but he doesn't buy it. So I cook two pots of pasta when we have it; one for me, one for him. I am happy to say that he did not taste the turkey, flaxseed or the whole wheat bread in the meatballs, and I'm not talking.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Guy and I both liked these pork chops -- cooked this way, they were tender and the cabbage was delicious with the onions and apples. The only thing I would change is the amount of salt used and the amount of "Essence." The flavors were too strong for me in the amounts that Emeril uses; the amount of salt in the recipe below is 4 tsp. plus the salt that's in the Essence and the salt that's in the broth. My blood pressure goes up just typing that. (Also, I recommend using sea salt because it has minerals. I actually know someone who had trouble with her blood pressure levels until she switched to sea salt.) I posted Emeril's amounts below with my recommendations. If you like strong flavors and heavy salt, then keep to the amounts that Emeril suggests. I will make these chops again; it's a good recipe.

Emeril's Smothered Pork Chops with Apples, Onions and Cabbage
INGREDIENTS: 4 double cut pork chops (I used thick cut)
2 tsp. Essence, recipe follows (I recommend reducing to 1 tsp. for 4 chops)
2 tsp. kosher salt (I recommend reducing to 1 tsp. for 4 chops; Essence has salt in it)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick wedges
2 cups thinly sliced onions
3 lbs. savoy or napa cabbage, shredded or thin sliced (1 head) (I used regular green cabbage)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup Calvados (Calvados is a French apple brandy; I used Bols Triple Sec because that's
what I had)
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (I didn't have any, so these were eliminated)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt (this is for the cabbage; I recommend reducing to 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 tsp. freshly chopped marjoram (I didn't have any, so this got eliminated)

DIRECTIONS: Season both sides of the chops with the Essence and kosher salt. Lightly dredge in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over high heat. Add the chops, 2 at a time, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chops and transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining chops; set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, and add the apples and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples and onions are golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, Calvados, caraway seeds, bay leaves, salt, pepper and herbs. Cook uncovered until sauce comes to a boil. Add the chops; cover; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the pork chops are fork-tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Serve the pork chops with the cabbage and pan juices.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast)
2-1/2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup

Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking," by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William Morrow, 1993.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


When I posted my old standby recipe for potato soup recently (see previous post filed under soups and stews), my sister informed me that the correct way to make potato soup was the French way, with potatoes and leeks only and not with celery, carrots and onions. Now I admit that my sister loves France and all things French, and I do not. I have never been to France; she has been there numerous times. I don't speak French; she does. Being very honest, I don't particularly care if I do things the French way. However, since I had never tried potato and leek soup, I thought it was high time I gave it a chance. I decided to spring for the expensive leeks, and used Emeril Lagasse's recipe. I followed it almost to a T: substituting black pepper for white because I didn't have white, substituting Smart Balance buttery spread for the butter, and substituting bacon bits for the snipped chive garnish because I didn't have any chives. Even though I'm not particularly fond of bacon fat, I decided to cook the leeks in it as Emeril suggested. If I were to make this recipe again, I would substitute either more Smart Balance or olive oil for the bacon grease. That being said, this is a wonderful recipe with amazing flavors and Guy and I both thoroughly enjoyed it.......but next time I make potato soup it will be my old standby recipe with celery, carrots and onions. A, it's cheaper; B, it also tastes awesome, in a different way, and we just really, really like it.

Potato Leek Soup
INGREDIENTS: 1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 lb.
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 springs fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. butter (I used Smart Balance buttery spread)
2 strips uncooked bacon, chopped (consider substituting 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Barefoot Chardonnay)
5 cups chicken stock
1 to 1-1/4 lbs. russet potatoes, chopped small (6 medium potatoes or 4-1/4 cups)
1-1/2 tsp. salt (preferably sea salt -- it has minerals)
3/4 tsp. white pepper (I used black)
1/2 to 3/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream (I used 1/3 cup heavy cream)
2 Tbsp. snipped chives (I used cooked crumbled bacon)

DIRECTIONS: Trim the green portions of the leek and, using 2 of the largest and longest leaves, make a bouquet garni by folding the 2 leaves around the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside. (Alternately, tie 2 leek leaves, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme together in a piece of cheesecloth.)

My Note: This is easier to do than it sounds. I just laid the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme on top of the green leek leaves and folded the leaves over them and around, making a cylindracal package tied with kitchen twine. It amazingly all stayed together; there were no peppercorns in the soup, and none of the thyme leaves fell out either. Photo below shows the package at the end of the cooking time, all neat and together.

Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside.

In a large soup pot (I used a 5-quart stockpot) over medium heat, melt the butter and add the bacon. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the reserved bouquet garni, chicken stock, potatoes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart and the soup is very flavorful. (My note: Cook the soup uncovered, and it took longer than 30 minutes; probably more like an hour.

Remove the bouquet garni and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender; or pureee the soup directly in the pot using an immersion blender. (My note: I left some potatoes in the pot to mash coarsely and put the rest of the soup into my blender in one batch.) Stir in the creme fraiche or cream and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately with some snipped chives sprinkled over the top of each bowl of soup. (or some cooked crumbled bacon, as I did.) Yield: about 1-1/2 quarts without the cream

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I found this recipe on the McCormick site, but adapted it to some new flavors. If you want to see the original recipe (Cinnamon Streusel Cake with Irish Cream Glaze), go to this link: The original recipe is for a 12-cup bundt pan, but I made it in my Wilton mini-bundt pan and my 3-cup Nordic bundt pan. If you like the flavors of coffee, cinnamon and chocolate (mochaccino), then you're going to love this recipe. The chocolate is subtle, but the cinnamon and coffee come through loud and clear.
Mochaccino Streusel Cake with Irish Cream Glaze
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 c. brown sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup toasted pecans
2/3 cup softened butter (I used salted -- it's what I had)
2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup white sugar + 2 Tbsp. Stevia Plus)
2/3 cup sour cream (I used lite)
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. instant coffee granules (I used decaf)
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup confectioner's (10X) sugar
2 Tbsp. Irish cream liqueur (I used 1 tsp. cocoa powder + 2 Tbsp. coffee brandy)
2-3 tsp. milk or cream (I used heavy cream)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325F. Set oven rack on center position. For the streusel topping, combine all topping ingredients in work bowl of a 4-cup or larger food processor and pulse till ingredients are well combined and pecans have just a few larger (but not large) pieces showing. Set aside.
For the cake, beat butter, sugar, sour cream, vanilla and coffee powder in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. (If mixture curdles, as mine did, don't worry; when you add the dry ingredients, it will come back.) Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda on low speed until well mixed.
Grease and flour whatever pans you are using, or spray with flour-added non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 of the streusel topping evenly over the bottom of the prepared pans. Spoon half of the batter over the topping. Repeat layers. Bake 1 hour for a 12-cup bundt pan; 22 minutes for mini-bundt pans; 28 minutes for a 3-cup bundt pan. These times are only guides. Start testing for doneness 5-7 minutes ahead, and remove cakes from oven when a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few crumbs. Cakes may not look done, especially if they crack as mine did and seem to be wet inside the crack. Let the toothpick tell the story; don't believe your eyes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cakes should release easily after setting in pans for 10 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
Prepare glaze, mixing all glaze ingredients in small bowl until smooth. Spoon evenly over cooled cake. (My cakes were actually warm when I glazed.) Let stand until glaze is set. (It sets almost immediately.)

Here's a look at the Wilton mini-bundt pan. I bought it online. These little cakes are about the size of a large cupcake.
Here's my Nordicware 3-cup bundt pan, also purchased online. This is a nice cake size for 2-4 people.
Here are the mini bundt cakes after they have been turned out of the pans. Although the instructions for the bundt pans always seem to be to brush them with melted butter, I sprayed with the flour-added non-stick cooking spray and had no trouble with release. I think the real trick is to let the cakes sit in the pan for at least 10 minutes. They pop right out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


We have friends who moved to New Bern from Chicago where they regularly enjoyed the famous Chicago thick-crust pizza. They miss it so much that they have it sent to them and pay $60 for one pizza (that includes shipping costs.) Guy and I, on the other hand, prefer our pizza with thin crust. Guy says the best pizza place in Trenton, NJ is DeLorenzo's and their pizza is thin right to the edges, and kind of burnt on the edges. I've been experimenting with pizza doughs, and there have been some very tough crusts with these experiments. But persistence has paid off, because I've found a great pizza dough. Tonight Guy said it was as close to DeLorenzo's as he has ever tasted. Since I haven't tasted DeLorenzo's pizza, I will just say that I really liked this crust because it was so thin -- that meant fewer carbs for me!

Now, about the sauce: another winner -- excellent flavor and texture, easy to make.

I hope you have some equipment to help you make pizza. I would be lost without my pizza stone and pizza board. They are both well-worn from years of use. I also use the pizza stone for pastry crusts and pies. If you don't have these tools, they're not expensive; go buy them. Photo below shows my pizza stone and board.

Make the pizza sauce and dough first; refrigerate or freeze till needed. When you want to make the pizzas, prepare your other topping ingredients. The pizza doesn't take long to put together and bake; it's all the other components that take the time, and they can be done in stages -- hours, days or even weeks ahead of time. BTW, this recipe is from Wolfgang Puck, Food Network. Since I've changed it considerably, you might want to see the original, which is on the Food Network website.

Thin Crust Pizza (adapted from Wolfgang Puck)
Rating: 10 out of 10

Cornmeal to sprinkle (I used self-rising)
Pizza Dough
All-purpose flour to sprinkle
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated Asiago or Fontina
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup cooked Italian sausage, in small pieces
1 cup sliced cooked mushrooms
3/4 cup sliced roasted red peppers
(any other toppings you desire)

DIRECTIONS: Place oven rack in center position. Preheat oven with pizza stone to 500F. Set out all the pizza toppings on the counter like an assembly line. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper in a circle about 7-8", and place one parchment circle on the pizza board. Sprinkle about 2 tsp. cornmeal over the parchment paper circle. Place one ball of dough on the cornmeal and flatten it with your hand. Sprinkle it with about 2 tsp. flour, and rub it over the top of the ball with your hand. With a rolling pin, roll the ball in a circular motion around the edges, as you would a pie crust. To put it another way, divide the dough into quadrants and work clockwise, starting at 6 and going from 6 to 9, then 9 to 12, then 12 to 3, then 3 to 6. Keep doing this until the dough has become a flattened circle slightly larger than the parchment paper. The photo below is from my last attempt -- I was still trying to work the dough with my hands then. The pie was good, the crust was tender, but when I rolled the dough tonight, it was exceptional. Of course, our friends from Chicago wouldn't think so, because the crust would be just too thin for them. The crust on the pizza below puffed up at the edges, the way most pies do. And here's another little tip: whatever crust you see exposed when the dough is raw will expand in the oven. The dough below really blew up around the edges and there was quite a bit of crust showing on the baked pizza. (Naturally I forgot to take a photo; you know how I am with that.)

Once you have the dough the way you want it, spread the toppings. First, the tomato sauce. Less is more. Don't overdo anything. After the sauce, then the cheese. Instead of mixing the cheeses, I put them on in layers. First the Parmesan, very sparingly. Then the Asiago or Fontina. Then the Mozzarella. Guy's aunt, who cooked for Dean Martin in Las Vegas, used Cheddar Cheese in addition to Mozzarella and Parmesan.
Your final toppings are up to you. We're partial to sausage and peppers, especially roasted peppers. The pizza below has gold and red peppers. Also, note the parchment paper -- it's larger than the pie and it did burn somewhat. So tonight I cut it smaller than the pie and it didn't burn. It really helps to move the dough onto and off of the pizza stone. The first night I struggled with the dough and couldn't move it easily. The parchment paper makes it a breeze.
Go back up top and look at the final pizza photo. That's from tonight. See the difference? There's less crust showing. We're so excited! We will be enjoying pizza at home more often. This is especially exciting considering that we have no decent pizza places in New Bern. I mean, how can a southerner make pizza? Did you know it originated in Trenton, NJ? Honest. It was called Tomato Pie back then.

Here's the last bit of instruction: Slip the filled dough onto the hot pizza stone by slightly tilting the pizza board towards the stone. The parchment paper will slide onto the stone, taking the dough with it. Bake for about 9 minutes. You may have to experiment with this. I find 9 minutes to be perfect for my oven. Wolfgang Puck says 7-8 minutes. I hope someone will leave me a comment about how this worked for them.


I love this tomato sauce! It's great on pizza but could also be used on pasta of any sort. It's quick, easy and delicious with wonderful flavor and texture.

Wolfgang Puck's Favorite Tomato Sauce, Adapted
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (I use Carapelli first-cold pressed)
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced (I used 10 oz. from a can of crushed tomatoes,
and added 6 skinned, seeded and chopped roasted plum tomatoes)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (I used 1 Tbsp. crushed dried basil)
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste -- use sparingly and taste first

DIRECTIONS: In 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions till soft, about 5 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to keep from burning the onions. Add the garlic and cook another minute. (Garlic burns very easily so watch it.) Add the tomato paste and tomatoes; stir and cook for about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth , basil salt and pepper and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or till sauce thickens, stirring as needed. When sauce is thickened nicely, taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate or freeze till needed. Yield: about 1 quart.


This is a very easy recipe and it's a good dough for pizza -- tender and thin. It makes 4 8" pizzas, and you can freeze any or all of them before or after baking.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough
1 small package active dry or fresh yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees, divided use
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup warm water. (I used a Pyrex measuring cup for this, but you could also use a small bowl if you prefer.) The water should feel comfortably warm on your wrist. Don't use your fingers or hand to gauge the temp of the water.

Combine the flour and salt in the work bowl of an 11-cup or larger food processor (or use the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook). Add the oil, the yeast mixture and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and pulse till dough forms and is well worked, about 5 minutes. (For electric mixer with dough hook, mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.) Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. (I didn't need to do this, because the dough was worked well enough by the food processor; you will have to judge what your dough needs. You will know by the way it feels. If it's soft, smooth and elastic, it's worked enough.) Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. (I put the dough in a lightly oiled glass bowl, turned it over so both sides would be greased, and covered it with a clean kitchen towel that I dampened. I placed it in my microwave -- without turning it on of course -- and set the timer for 30 minutes.)

Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 oz. each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel (the same one) and let rest 15 - 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 2 days (or frozen, if you prefer). Yield: 4 8" pizzas

Friday, January 11, 2008


I've been saving this recipe from the January 2002 issue of Food & Wine. If you're unfamiliar with this mag, they have a column at the end entitled, "Last Bite," wherein they feature a recipe, usually with a full-page photo. Their photo and this recipe so intrigued me that I cut it out and stashed it and periodically drooled over it. Well, I finally made it, with some modifications. Their recipe makes a 10-inch cheesecake. I halved the recipe and made an 8" cheesecake (recipe below is the halved, adapted version.) They use almond extract with the vanilla; I used lemon extract. Their crust of walnuts, sugar and melted butter didn't turn me on; I changed it to a walnut cookie crust which turned out to be a good move. I added some salt because their recipe had none; also added 2 Tbsp. cornstarch to firm the cheesecake up a bit and I upped the heavy cream a little. The star in this recipe is the vanilla -- please don't forget that. In order to protect the integrity of the vanilla, I opted to serve the cheesecake as is; no drizzle or grated chocolate over the cake; and I recommend your doing the same. This is a cheesecake to be savored slowly so the full flavor of the vanilla bean caresses your mouth. The walnuts are a great complement to the vanilla. Truly, this dessert is in a class by itself. Only the best vanilla should be used when making this recipe.

Did you know that Cook's Illustrated recently tested vanillas and found that the best baking results were obtained when using vanilla beans? This recipe uses a mix of beans and vanilla extract. I had some Madagascar vanilla beans, and I opted to use Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract (purchase at Williams Sonoma, 4 oz. about $11.00). This product is actually a replacement for vanilla beans in any recipe, because it contains vanilla bean seeds. So by using both the vanilla bean and Nielsen-Massey's vanilla bean paste, this cheesecake had a distinct but delicate vanilla flavor.

If you don't have an 8" springform pan, trot over to Wal-Mart and buy the Wilton pack of 3 springform pans (8", 9" and 10") for around $10.00. Do yourself a favor and make this cheesecake soon.

Food & Wine's Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, Adapted

CRUST: 3/4 cup toasted walnuts
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used 1/4 c. brown sugar + 1 tsp. Stevia Plus)
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour (the nutty flavor of the flour complements the walnuts)

SOUR CREAM TOPPING: 1 cup sour cream (I used lite and had no trouble with it setting)
2 Tbsp. white sugar (I used 1-1/2 tsp. Stevia Plus)
1 tsp. good quality vanilla (I used Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste)

FILLING: 16 oz. cream cheese (I used full-fat; it's what I had on hand, but Neufchatel is fine.)
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 Tbsp. Stevia Plus)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, good quality (I used Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste)
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Position oven rack in center. Have filling and topping ingredients at room temperature. Place walnuts in a pie plate or other ovenproof dish and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or till lightly toasted and giving off an aroma. Set aside to cool.

Lightly grease bottom and about 1" up sides of 8" springform pan, using butter. In work bowl of 11-cup or larger food processor, combine first 3 crust ingredients and pulse till well combined and nuts are crumbs, scraping bottom and sides as needed. Add the flour and pulse till combined and mixture resembles coarse sand. Press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1" up sides. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until set and lightly browned around edges. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly while preparing filling.

Reduce oven heat to 300F. (Note: I missed this step and actually started to bake the cheesecake at 350F. It baked at that temp for 15 minutes, then I reduced to 275F for 40 minutes, added the sour cream topping and baked at 5 minutes. There was no harm done, showing how flexible cheesecakes really are and not to be feared. Just remember to check the cake about 10 minutes before expected done time; shake the pan gently to see if the center is set yet. It should jiggle slightly to allow for continued baking upon removal from oven.)

Prepare the sour cream topping by combining the topping ingredients in a small bowl and mixing by hand with a whisk or spoon. Set aside.

Wipe work bowl and blades with damp paper towel. Combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla bean seeds and pulse till well combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing just till each is combined. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl as needed. Add the cream, flavorings, salt and cornstarch and pulse till combined, maybe another minute. Pour batter over crust and place pan in oven on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or till lightly golden and slightly jiggly in center. (Note: my cheesecake never got lightly golden, so look more for the slightly jiggly center as your guide.) Remove the cheesecake from the oven; immediately pour the sour cream topping over the cheesecake and smooth the surface. Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer, or till the topping is set and no longer glossy on top. Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating for 3 hours. Cover the cheesecake loosely with plastic wrap or with tinfoil over top of pan and allow to ripen overnight. Run a knife or spatula around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen the sides -- you can do this while it cools. This cheesecake yields about 8 servings.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I suppose some of you will think that a recipe for turkey burgers is boring. For me, it's not because we don't have them that often, and I look forward to them. The leftovers are great cold, right out of the fridge, as a snack. I purchased two packages of ground turkey (one, 99% fat free breast and one 93% lean) to make chili, giving me 2.6 lbs. I decided to make turkey burgers with part of the meat. Following is the recipe.

Judy's Turkey Burgers
INGREDIENTS: 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or Smart Balance buttery spread + 1/4
cup for frying
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1.3 lb. pkg. ground turkey (breast or 93% lean, or mixture)
2/3 cup whole wheat or white fine bread crumbs + extra bread crumbs
for coating patties
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or chipotle chile pepper)
1 egg white
1/3 cup milk or lite sour cream (approx.)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup

DIRECTIONS: In medium heavy fry pan, saute the onion in the oil till transparent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, till the garlic is soft. Set aside to cool thoroughly. In large bowl, combine all ingredients, including the cooled onion/garlic mixture. Mix thoroughly. Form into 5-6 patties. Sprinkle extra breadcrumbs on wax paper or paper plate and coat each pattie with crumbs. Refrigerate till cooking time.
When ready to cook patties, heat a large heavy fry pan over medium-high heat and add about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil. When oil is hot, add patties and reduce heat to medium. Cook on each side about 4-5 minutes, or till turkey is cooked through and patties are nicely browned. If they are cooking too fast, reduce heat to avoid burning them. When you flip to the second side, you can also cover the pan and reduce heat to low. (Our Thai friend/neighbor made us some delicious collards to go with the turkey burgers -- see photo above; and I cooked some sweet potatoes with onions and garlic as another side.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I hope you made that wonderful spiced pecan pumpkin butter (see previous blog--filed under fruit sauces and butters). If you did, then you can make this cheesecake which is unbelievably good. You can't substitute pumpkin puree for the pumpkin butter unless you make other changes to the recipe -- you would have to increase the sugar and the spices. (I added chocolate and peanut butter to this cheesecake, which you don't have to do, but think about it, because it really adds some interesting flavors. I'm giving you the recipe without those ingredients, but if you want to add them, try adding about 1/4 - 1/3 cup peanut butter and about 2 Tbsp. cocoa.)
And, although the cheesecake is wonderful as is, a drizzle of chocolate sundae sauce followed by a drizzle of caramel sundae sauce would really top it off nicely. I'm watching my sugar, so I didn't add the drizzles. You'll notice that I used whole-wheat flour for the crust. We have to add those whole grains wherever we can, right? The crust is wonderful on this cake, and no one will know it's whole-wheat flour unless you tell them.

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake
CRUST: 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt

FILLING: 24 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese (3 8-oz. pkgs.)
3/4 cup white sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 cup spiced pecan pumpkin butter
3 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. flour

DIRECTIONS: CRUST: Preheat oven to 350F. Set out a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil and an 8" springform pan lined with parchment paper that has been cut to fit the bottom. Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting.

In work bowl of 11-cup food processor, combine butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Pulse for a minute or two, or till well combined and pecans are ground. Scrape down sides and bottom as necessary. Add flour and salt and pulse just till combined. Set aside 1 cup of dough for topping. Press remaining into bottom of springform pan, and about 1 inch up sides. Bake 12-14 minutes, or till golden, slightly puffy and set. Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly while filling is prepared.

FILLING: Using same work bowl (not necessary to clean it), combine the cream cheese, pumpkin butter (and peanut butter and cocoa if adding) and sugar and pulse about 2 minutes or till well combined, scraping sides and bottom as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing just till combined after each one. Add cream, cinnamon, vanilla and flour and pulse till combined. Pour over crust, sprinkle with reserved topping, and place in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 325F and bake 55-70 minutes, or till center is almost set. Turn oven off, leave door halfway open, and let cheesecake sit in half-opened oven for about 20-30 minutes, or till center is about set. Transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling (at least 2 hours), then place in fridge, covered, to ripen overnight. (You can run a knife or spatula around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen the sides while it's cooling.)

If desired, drizzle each cheesecake slice with some chocolate sundae sauce and/or some caramel sundae sauce. Yield: about 8 servings.