Pumpkin Cheesecake – I Lowered the Fat and Simplified the Process! Can’t Beat That!!!


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So first try at cheesecake with a berry topping was delicious, but didn’t set up the way it should. I would not be defeated!!! I was getting in the fall mood last weekend and decided to try again with a pumpkin cheesecake. This one was a winner!!!! It had a firm, yet silky texture and the wonderful, comforting taste of pumpkin. I’m not usually a fan of pumpkin pie, but the cream cheese ads a wonderful tang to this dessert!

Tip: In my first attempt at cheesecake I learned that you can’t cut out all the fat and expect it to set up nicely. This version is a compromise. I used the reduced fat cream cheese and used full fat sour cream.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 Pre-made graham cracker crust

2 – 8 oz blocks of reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup sour cream (full fat – see tip above)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients one by one while continuing to beat. I used my stand mixer for this. Pour filling into crust. You will likely have some leftover. I poured this into small oven safe bowls and baked as well. Making little custard like bowls. Place dishes on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream.


Honey Mustard Chicken – Quick, Easy and Flavorful!!!


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We all have our go to foods, but sometimes you just crave something different. I’ve eaten honey mustard sauces out, but I’ve never made my own. Heck, I seem to remember that McDonalds has a honey mustard sauce for their chicken nuggets. I almost never eat fast food, so honestly don’t know if they still have that sauce or not, but they did when I worked there in high school! Anyway, the other night I had some chicken breast tenders thawed out and thought I would make some honey mustard chicken. These couldn’t have been any easier and my family loved them! They had a great, tangy flavor!

Tip: Before you start brushing the raw chicken with the sauce, set some aside for dipping with your meal. I made the mistake of diving in with the basting brush and once the sauce was tainted with raw chicken it was unusable unless I cooked it. It’s easy to make more sauce, as it is just equal parts of mustard and honey.

Honey Mustard Chicken

1 pound chicken

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together your mustard and honey. Set some aside for dipping later and don’t put your basting brush in it, so it’s not contaminated with raw chicken. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper and lay on baking sheet. Baste both side of chicken with honey mustard sauce and then sprinkle with fresh basil. Bake chicken 30-45 minutes until cooked through. Cooking time will vary based on the size of your pieces. My chicken tenders cooked pretty quickly, but full size breasts or thighs  will take longer. Serve extra sauce with cooked chicken for dipping!


Italian Sausage and Spicy Cream Sauce Over Pasta – Low-fat, Easy and Delicious!!!


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For some reason the turkey Italian sausage is always marked down at my local grocery store. I can’t resist a good deal, so I have a bunch of that sausage in my freezer. I figured I better use some of that stuff! I make my marinara sauce quite frequently, so I wanted to try something a little different last night. This spicy cream tomato sauce was delicious!!! Since I used sweet sausage, the dish wasn’t overly spicy, so even the sensitive palette would enjoy it, but you could easily spice it up even more by using spicy sausage and adding additional red pepper flakes. This would be an easy dish to multiply and serve to a large group too!

Italian Sausage and Spicy Cream Sauce Over Pasta

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 pound turkey Italian sausage, remove from casing

3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1 – 14 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained

1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 tbsp tomato paste (Tip: Buying the tomato paste in a tube (vs. a can) is perfect for this type of recipe. You can squeeze out what you need, cap it and put it back in the fridge. Rather than using a partial can and likely throwing away the rest.)

1/2 cup fat free half and half

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 – 13 oz box of pasta (I had whole wheat rotini pasta on hand, so I used that.)

I cooked in my dutch oven, but you could also use a large skillet. Spray pan with olive oil spray and heat to medium high heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add sausage and cook, breaking up into small pieces. When sausage is almost completely browned, add garlic and cook another minute. Add all tomato products, stir well and reduce to low. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, you can boil your pasta in salted water. In the last couple minutes of sauce simmering, add the half and half and cheese and stir. Drain pasta and pour into large bowl. Spoon sausage and sauce over pasta and serve. 8 servings.

Mangia bene!!!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie – I really need to try this!!! It sounds fantastic!!!


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This pie sounds and looks fantastic!!! I’m going to have to try this myself!!!


Cheesecake with Berry Lemon Topping – Not Perfect, but Delicious!!!


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So this food blogging girl had never made cheesecake before. Don’t ask why! I just never got around to it until recently. As you can see from the picture, it didn’t turn out perfect, but it sure tasted fantastic! I think this recipe is still solid and I made some mistakes that you can easily correct and make a perfectly great cheesecake! I cannot take credit for this recipe though. This was from Tyler Florence of the Food Network.

So my mistake was that in trying to keep this low-fat, it didn’t firm up as much as it should. It did still taste great and have a nice texture though, so if you care more about fat content than the beauty of your dish, you can follow my notes below.

I also cheated and used a pre-made graham cracker crust. I had one leftover from my Canteloupe Pie and that’s what inspired me to try making cheese cake. I was happy with the crust, so if you don’t have a springform pan or just want to save a little time, the pre-made crust worked just fine! I did still follow the baking instructions of adding water to a baking pan and setting the cheesecake in that.

The Ultimate Cheesecake by Tyler Florence


Crust: (My note: I used a pre-made crust with success)

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 30 squares)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 stick unsalted butter, melted


1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks, softened (My note: I used reduced fat cream cheese, but I think this contributed to it not setting up completely.)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 pint sour cream (My note: I used fat free sour cream and this probably also contributed to it not setting up completely.)

1 lemon, zested

1 dash vanilla extract

Warm Lemon Blueberry Topping, recipe follows

Warm Lemon Blueberries:

1 pint blueberries (My note: I had a bag of frozen mixed berries. I thawed them out and then cooked according to this and it was delicious!!!)

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

For the Filling:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well mixed but not over-beaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold and transfer to a cake plate. Using a spatula spread a layer of Warm Lemon Blueberry topping over the surface.

Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe dry after each cut.

Warm Lemon Blueberries:

In a small saucepan add all the ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the fruit begins to break down slightly. Leave to cool before spreading on cheesecake.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/the-ultimate-cheesecake-recipe2.html?oc=linkback


Honey Cilantro Shrimp – Quick, Delicious and Healthy!!!


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I couldn’t resist sharing this post by another blogger! This shrimp looks delicious and is definitely something I will try in the future!

Paella – My First Experience 


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My husband and I had the opportunity last night to attend a wonderful Paella event at the Hannah Nicole Winery in Brentwood, CA. It was a wonderful evening! I had never had paella before and it did not disappoint! As you can see from the photo, the cooking of it was quite an impressive event. The dish was very colorful and full of flavor! The wonderful flavor of rice, chicken, sausage, shrimp and mussels in a tomato and saffron sauce.

Not only did we get to enjoy great food and wine, but we also were entertained by a guitarist and two female flamenco dancers. The music was a beautiful background and the dances were just stunning!

Me and my hubby Mark:

Creamy Gnocchi Soup with Spinach – Warm, Creamy Goodness!!!


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I just love gnocchi!! They are wonderful, fluffy little pillows of potato-ey goodness! Now you add some veggies and a generous amount of creamy sauce and you have a tasty, comforting soup that will warm your soul this fall and winter! This creamy sauce could get out of control with the fat content, but in an effort to keep this reasonable I used fat free creamer to keep the fat content down. I also used pre-made gnocchi, which made this dish quick and easy to make. 

Leaving out the chicken would easily make this a delicious and still hearty vegetarian meal!

Creamy Gnocchi Soup With Spinach

3 -4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cooked and diced (I baked it for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees)

4 cups fat free chicken stock (I used my home made stock)

2 cups fat free half-and-half

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

1⁄2 carrot, shredded (Use a vegetable peeler or julianne)

1⁄2 onion, diced

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/2 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper

16 ounces pre-made potato gnocchi (You can find this in the pasta aisle)

1 tablespoon cornstarch 

Spray a frying pan with non-stick spray. Saute the onion, garlic, carrot over medium heat until onion is translucent.

Mix cornstarch and 2-3 tbsp of half and half in a small bowl until smooth, set aside. Add chicken, chicken stock, half and half, salt and pepper, thyme to frying pan and then stir in cornstarch mixture. Heat to boiling, then add gnocchi. Gently boil for 4 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted.


Caprese Salad – A Light, Easy Warm Weather Meal!


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Here in California the weather is still really warm. Ok, it’s hot!!! We’re supposed to hit 101 degrees this weekend! On these kind of days, you just don’t feel like heating up the kitchen with a lot of cooking and a light meal sounds wonderful. I know the Caprese Salad is nothing new, but I’m not ashamed to admit it was new to me. I’ve seen them on TV, I’ve been with people that have ordered them in restaurants, but I’ve never had one myself. I had purchased some expensive motzarella for another dish and didn’t make it. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I decided to use it to make a Caprese salad. It did not disappoint!!! This dish is stunning and delicious! It’s great for a quick, light dinner or elegant enough for an appetizer to serve to guests.

This salad is REALLY simple!!! Simple is great, but when a dish is this simple it is critical to use excellent ingredients. I had the expensive motzarella; check! I grow my own fresh basil; check! I bought some beautiful, organic heirloom tomatoes at the store; check! Now I wanted to make a balsamic reduction to top off this dish. I’ve got this!!!

Caprese Salad

Motzarella cheese, slides (Invest in some good cheese!)

Tomatoes, sliced (Go big on the investment here too! Hot house tomatoes have very little flavor. Get your hands on some homegrown or heirloom tomatoes!)

Fresh basil leaves

Salt and pepper

1 cup Balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup Honey

The only cooking involved: Whisk together vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Arrange cheese, tomatoes, and basil in alternate layers on plates or a large platter, drizzle with balsamic reduction and then lightly season with salt and pepper.

Mangia bene!!!