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Italian Tiramisu Cheesecake

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This gorgeous, easy cake is wonderful for holidays!

Ingredients:

  • 24 lady finger Italian cookies
  • 12 Oreo-type sandwich cookies
  • 1 tsp finely ground espresso
  • 1.5 cups brewed espresso (6 T separated out)
  • 8 T butter, softened
  • 36 oz. name brand cream cheese, warmed to room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 packet of white chocolate instant pudding mix
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (OR)
  • 1 bar dark chocolate for curls
  • Baking parchment
  • Spring-form pan
  • Cake pan slightly larger than spring-form pan
  • Larger pan for water bath

Instructions:

First, preheat oven to 350 and line a 9″ spring-form pan lined with parchment paper (place a round piece on the bottom and a long strip along the sides).

Step 1: Prepare the Crust

  1. Finely grind the sandwich cookies, lady fingers, and espresso powder in a food processor.
  2. Add melted butter and pulse until fully mixed.
  3. Press mixture down onto the parchment on the bottom of the spring-form pan.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and set aside.
  6. Turn oven down to 320

Step 2: Cheesecake Filling

  1. Beat 32 oz. of the cream cheese, butter and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Stop mixing a few times to scrape down the sides .
  2. Add eggs one at a time while mixing.
  3. Add 6 T of the prepared espresso, vanilla extract, and then flour, scraping down as needed.
  4. Pour half of the cheesecake mixture onto the crust in the spring-form pan.
  5. Dip the lady finger cookies in the remaining espresso and line them up to form a single layer over the cheesecake mixture, cutting to shape as necessary.
  6. Pour the remaining cheesecake mixture on top.
  7. Place in water bath – use cake pan under spring-form pan (to keep water out) inside large, deep pan filled partway with warm water.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 320 degrees. The middle of the cheesecake will still be a little jiggly.
  9. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake reduce temp in the oven for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove it from the oven and let it fully cool on a counter top.
  11. Refrigerate overnight.

Step 3: Whipped Topping

  1. Beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Chill in refrigerator while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining cream cheese, milk, and pudding mix until completely smooth.
  3. Stir the chilled whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it is fully combined.
  4. Place mixture into a piping bag with a large tip, such as Wilton 2A, and then decorate the top of the cheesecake.
  5. Dust the top with powdered cocoa (OR)
  6. Shave on chocolate curls.
  7. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
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Easter Story Cookies!

Easter Story Cookies

With Bible story – to be baked and read the night before Easter

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 Ingredients:

1 cup pecan or walnut halves, to be broken          

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. vinegar                                                            

1 cup sugar

3 egg whites                                                               

½ tsp cream of tartar                                               

Adhesive tape

1 Bible

 Wash and dry hands. Gather above ingredients. Preheat oven to 350o and lightly grease two cookie sheets (or cover with baking parchment).

Place nuts in a re-sealable bag. Give participants wooden spoons (or a rubber mallet) and let them pound the nuts into small pieces. Set aside. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by soldiers. (Read John 19:1-3)

Let each helper smell the vinegar. Then measure 1 teaspoon into the mixing bowl. Explain that while dying on the cross, Jesus was thirsty and soldiers gave Him vinegar to drink. (Read John 19:28-30)

Separate the eggs. Add the whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. (Read John 10:10-11, 28)

Sprinkle a little salt into each person’s palm, and let each one brush it off into the mixture. Then they can taste their salty palms. This reminds us of salty tears shed by those saddened by Jesus’ death. (Read Luke 23:27)

So far, the ingredients aren’t very appetizing, but now sugar and cream of tartar are added, and you must trust that these will produce a pleasant result. Explain that the sweetest part of this story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He makes it possible to know Him and belong to Him. (Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16)

Beat with electric mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form. Point out the pearly white color, the color of purity in God’s eyes for those who have been cleansed from sin by Jesus’ death. (Read Isa. 1:18 and 1 John 3:1-3)

Fold in nuts. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on the cookie sheet. Explain that each mound resembles a rocky tomb like the one in which Jesus’ body was placed. (Read Matt. 27:57- 60)

Place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven, close the door, and turn the oven completely OFF. Hand each participant a piece of tape to secure the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. (Read Matt. 27:65-66)

Time for bed! Explain that we may feel sad and disappointed to leave the cookies in the oven with the door closed. Jesus’ death seemed final to His followers, and they were in despair when the tomb was sealed. (Read John 16:20 – 22)

On Easter morning, open the oven door and give everyone a cookie. Point out the cracked surface of the cookies, and then take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find His tomb opened and empty. He had risen! (Read Matt. 28:1-9)

 

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Easter Cookie Recipe!

Easter Cookies

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I’m not sure where this recipe originated, but our family’s been using it for years on the night before Easter to share with our little ones the story of how Jesus Christ suffered and died. May we never stop remembering what He did for us!

1 cup pecan or walnut halves, to be broken          

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. vinegar                                                            

1½ cups sugar

3 egg whites                                                               

½ tsp cream of tartar                                               

Adhesive tape

1 Bible 

Wash and dry hands. Gather above ingredients. Preheat oven to 350o and lightly grease two cookie sheets (or cover with baking parchment).

Place nuts in a re-sealable bag. Give participants wooden spoons (or a rubber mallet) and let them pound the nuts into small pieces. Set aside. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by soldiers. (Read John 19:1-3)

Let each helper smell the vinegar. Then measure 1 teaspoon into the mixing bowl. Explain that while dying on the cross, Jesus was thirsty and soldiers gave Him vinegar to drink. (Read John 19:28-30)

Separate the eggs. Add the whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. (Read John 10:10-11, 28)

Sprinkle a little salt into each person’s palm, and let each one brush it off into the mixture. Then they can taste their salty palms. This reminds us of salty tears shed by those saddened by Jesus’ death. (Read Luke 23:27)

So far, the ingredients aren’t very appetizing, but now sugar and cream of tartar are added, and you must trust that these will produce a pleasant result. Explain that the sweetest part of this story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He makes it possible to know Him and belong to Him. (Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16)IMG_7586

Beat with electric mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form. Point out the pearly white color, the color of purity in God’s eyes for those who have been cleansed from sin by Jesus’ death. (Read Isa. 1:18 and 1 John 3:1-3)

Fold in nuts. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on the cookie sheet. Explain that each mound resembles a rocky tomb like the one in which Jesus’ body was placed. (Read Matt. 27:57- 60)

Place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven, close the door, and turn the oven completely OFF. Hand each participant a piece of tape to secure the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. (Read Matt. 27:65-66)

Time for bed! Explain that we may feel sad and disappointed to leave the cookies in the oven with the door closed. Jesus’ death seemed final to His followers, and they were in despair when the tomb was sealed. (Read John 16:20 – 22)

On Easter morning, open the oven door and give everyone a cookie. Point out the cracked surface of the cookies, and then take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find His tomb opened and empty. He had risen! (Read Matt. 28:1-9)

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Easter Cookie Recipe

Easter Cookies

These Easter Cookies tell the story of how Jesus Christ suffered and died. May we never stop remembering what He did for us!

Ingredients:

1 cup pecan halves, to be broken                    pinch of salt

1 tsp. vinegar                                                             1 cup sugar

3 egg whites                                                                1 Bible 

First, wash and dry everyone’s hands. Gather the ingredients and some adhesive tape. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Place pecans in a resealable bag. Give participants wooden spoons and let them pound the pecans into small pieces.  Set aside.  Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by soldiers. (Read John 19:1-3)

Let each helper smell the vinegar. Then measure 1 teaspoon into the mixing bowl.  Explain that while dying on the cross, Jesus was thirsty and soldiers gave Him vinegar to drink.  (Read John 19:28-30)

Separate the eggs. Add the whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life.  Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. (Read John 10:10-11, 28)

Sprinkle a little salt into each person’s palm, and let each one brush it off into the mixture. Then they can taste their salty palms. This reminds us of salty tears shed by those saddened by Jesus’ death. (Read Luke 23:27)

So far, the ingredients aren’t very appetizing, but now sugar is added, and you must trust that it will have a pleasant result. Explain that the sweetest part of this story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He makes it possible to know Him and belong to Him. (Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16)

Beat with electric mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks form. Point out the pearly white color, the color of purity in God’s eyes for those who have been cleansed from sin by Jesus’ death. (Read Isa. 1:18 and 1 John 3:1-3)

Fold in nuts. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on the cookie sheet.  Explain that each mound resembles a rocky tomb like the one in which Jesus’ body was placed.  (Read Matt. 27:57- 60)

Put the cookie sheet in the preheated oven, close the door, and turn the oven completely off. Hand each participant a piece of tape to secure the oven door.  Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. (Read Matt. 27:65-66)

Time for bed! Explain that they may feel sad and disappointed to leave the cookies in the oven with the door closed. Jesus’ death seemed final to His followers, and they were in despair when the tomb was sealed. (Read John 16:20 – 22)

On Easter morning, open the oven door and give everyone a cookie.  Point out the cracked surface of the cookies, and then take a bite. The cookies are hollow!  On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find His tomb opened and empty. He had risen! (Read Matt. 28:1-9)

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Royal Recipes Collection: Simple, Sensational Stir Fry!

Royal Recipes Collection: Simple, Sensational Stir-Fry!

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My hubby loves sampling different types of foods while on trips to Japan. In my Crestmere Series novels, Marsten and Reishel mastered Asian cooking while learning martial arts in the east. Here’s a delicious, easy, healthy stir-fry recipe my family enjoys a lot.

Blog Post Photos 006Ingredients:

– Cut up chicken, beef, or shrimp

– Vegetable assortment – sliced bell peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, etc. Maybe toss in a few of those tiny little corncobs (do you suppose they’re all grown on tiny little fields by tiny little farmers with tiny little tractors? I’ve always wondered..)

-Peanuts, almonds, or cashews (or all three!)

– Cooked rice – we like either brown or long-grain rice cooked in our Aroma rice cooker from Costco.

-Oil: peanut tastes nice with stir-fry, but others are fine too.Blog Post Photos 034

-2 Tbsp beef flavored Better than Bouillion

-1/2 cup hot water in a 2-cup measuring cup (or bowl)

-1/2 cup soy sauce

“A good, well-lived today makes every yesterday a dream of a good future,

and every morning is a vision of hope.”

– Asian proverb

Method:

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a wok or large skillet.

2. Dissolve Better than Bouillion into the hot water. Add last two ingredients and stir with a fork to break lumps. Set aside.Blog Post Photos 001

3. Spoon the meat pieces into the skillet and stir until lightly browned (cut a piece to make sure it’s cooked inside), then remove to a bowl. Don’t overcook! You will cook them more later.

2. Add more oil to the skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and toss in the vegetables. Carrots and other tough veggies take a bit longer than the soft ones, so you may wish to add these first. Stir-fry for a few minutes to heat and soften. They should still be a little crisp.

3. Return the meat pieces to the mixture and stir until it reaches desired doneness.

4. Add the nuts.

5. Now add the bouillion mixture and stir briefly. It will thicken quickly. Remove from heat.

6. Spoon over rice and enjoy with some nice plum wine and pretty chopsticks!

“Help thy brother’s boat across, and lo!

Thine own has reached the shore.”

– Another Asian proverb

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Omelettes Royale

Omelettes Royale

I used to think omelettes were too complicated (of the “Do not attempt this at home!” variety), but after watching a number of experts at wonderful places like Biltmore Estate and Hilton Head resorts, I’ve learned a few tricks to make it simple and fun. In Amberly, Marsten likes to whip these up at Crestmere Palace.

Ingredients:
– 2-3 eggs
– 1 tsp milk
– Olive oil and/or butter
– ¼ tsp salt (if desired).
– Seasonings (fresh basil, Italian seasonings, or whatever you like)

– ½ cup chopped meats and/or vegetables – ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. (I like to roast the veggies in olive oil for 5 minutes or so. If I prepare some for homemade pizza on a Friday night, I’ll save half for omelettes on Saturday morning – yum! Otherwise, simply sautee them in the omelette pan beforehand)

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– ½ cup shredded cheese (I like shredded NY Sharp Cheddar). Feta’s nice too (with spinach!), or jack cheeses.

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Method:
First, cut up some fresh fruit, squeeze a few oranges for juice, and start some fine coffee brewing, so you don’t have to do this later when your omelette is ready. They cook fast. 🙂 I like dark roast coffee blends like Starbucks Verona or Gevalia Espresso Roast. Mmmm! Next, heat a good omelette pan (I like the green ceramic kind) on medium-high with the oil or butter. Beat the eggs, milk and salt.Puppet Show and Product Reviews 007

When the pan is ready, pour in the mixture. Then, follow

Trick # 1: Tilt the pan and lift the edges to drain excess liquid from the top (this allows the omelette to cook evenly).

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Once the bottom of the omelette is lightly firm – not cooked hard (even though the top is still runny), follow

Trick # 2: Flip it over.

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Now sprinkle the fillings on top. Reserve a little cheese.

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And fold over.

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Reduce temp to low, cook to finish on one side, then flip to the other and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

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A perfect omelette! Très simple.

English: An omelette

Here’s a lighter variety made with fewer eggs. Lowfat cheese can also be used.

English: Cider menu. Codfish omelette.

Codfish omelette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And an English variety made with codfish!

Bon appétit!

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Neapolitan Pizza Crust

Neapolitan Pizza Crust – Makes Two 12 inch Pizzas

(or a single bigger one!)

Adapted from my fabulous friend Ann Minard’s blog La Buona Cucina

Homemade Pizza

Ingredients:

1.5 tsp. yeast (or 1 packet)
1.5 cups slightly warm (110 F.) water
1 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
4 cups flour (freshly ground whole grain is best)
1.5 tsp. salt
Italian seasonings: parsley, oregano, garlic

Mixer Method: Mix warm water, yeast, and sugar until sudsy on medium-high speed in a Kitchen Aid or other dough-capable mixer, using a normal mixer attachment. Then reduce to medium-low speed. Switch to dough hook. Add 2.5 cups flour, oil, salt, and seasonings, then mix together until a ball forms, adding more flour by the half-cup as needed. Once it’s neither dry or sticky (sticky is better than dry), knead on medium-low speed for 7 minutes.
Hand Method: Mix warm water, yeast, and sugar then stir, allowing it to foam up. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well. Add the liquid, oil, salt, and seasonings. Mix together to form a ball. Knead for a good 10-20 minutes. Kneading is complete when the dough is smooth and elastic.
Cover the bowl with an oiled sheet of plastic wrap.

Note: A plastic bowl can be covered with wrap if the sides are wet first with water.

Let the dough rest until it doubles in size, at least one hour. Don’t punch and roll again, or it will fluff up like bread dough.
If using a pizza stone, place in oven to preheat at 450 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking. Move dough to a floured counter and divide in half. If you like, oil one of the dough balls and freeze in a freezer ziplock bag. Keeps for up to 3 months.

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Stretching: Either roll dough into circles of your desired thickness with a rolling pin on a floured surface or use the dimpling method to stretch – form the dough balls into fat circles and let sit for a minute. Dimple with your fingers from the inside out, turning the dough as you go. When the dough reaches half the size you want it to be, start stretching it out by using one fist underneath and one hand to turn it: This is similar to the professional method used in pizza parlors only a lot slower and done on the counter instead of tossing it up in the air. If the dough gets tough and doesn’t want to stretch, allow to rest for a few minutes.

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Baking: Transfer dough to a piece of baking parchment on top of a paddle (pizza peel) or pizza pan. Add toppings.

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My family likes homemade marinara, shredded whole milk mozzarella, chopped vegetables roasted quickly in olive oil (while the pizza stone is heating – or sautéed in a pan), garlic, and fresh basil leaves.

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When ready to bake, slide pizza with parchment onto the stone in the oven, place in a pan and set on the center rack if not using a stone.

Be careful not to burn your hands!Neapolitan Pizza 011

Check oven frequently. Depending on the thickness, it should bake nicely in 5 to 12 minutes. Wait till crust is golden-brown and cheese on top is bubbly. Then use paddle to remove from oven and place on a large baking pan for slicing.

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For an elegant touch, serve with freshly shredded parmagiano reggiano and basil infused olive oil. Bon appétit!

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