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Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? If you are hosting or attending a party or nursing a hangover while watching football, impress the pants off your guests with the perfect I’m-mingling-holding-a-craft-beer-appetizer—savory cheesecake in tiny Mason jars.

I concocted this recipe to honor farming in South Dakota. Unlike traditional dessert cheesecake, this smoky cheesecake is full of bacon and Gouda and Gruyere cheese and is served with salty crackers.

smoky bacon cheesecake

For the recipe, read Perfect Appetizer for your Pigskin Party: Smoky Bacon Cheesecake with Gouda and Gruyere on Hungry for Truth’s website.

smoky bacon cheesecake

About Hungry for Truth: “Hungry for Truth” is a new initiative from South Dakota Soybean designed to open discussions about food between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. We’re putting it all on the table to have open, honest conversations about how our food is raised and its safety.

The opinion written is my own and I was not compensated for this post. I just happen to like farmers. And bacon. And cheese.

Savory swine wishes,

Staci

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If you’ve been a morning guest in our home, chances are your coffee was as black as frozen hockey pucks and you’ve thrown dietary restraint to the wind by pigging out on warm, gooey butterscotch monkey bread.

Butterscotch monkey bread

Once in a while, I surprise my lovely friends and their kids and give them monkey bread at hockey games. And if you look closely on the bench by my purse, I even have a little pan for my favorite #6 after his game.

Tracey and kids

My recipe has evolved over the years to include butterscotch pudding mix and more biscuit dough. I’ve even driven 12 miles one way to buy the pudding in the morning because it’s that much better with it.

butterscotch monkey bread

I don’t only make monkey bread for houseguests. It is best eaten when it’s warm so my kids are experienced at dishing it into plastic containers for road food, like today as she headed off to work. Some houseguests, you know who you are Zach, won’t eat any until they’re in the car.

monkey bread before work

No houseguests? Make Flying Solo Monkey Bread.

monkey bread

Gooey forkful wishes,

Staci

Butterscotch monkey bread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 small box (3.5 oz.) cook & serve (not instant) butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 generous teaspoons cinnamon

4 tubes (7.5 ounces each) refrigerated biscuit dough

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk until bubbly. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate medium bowl stir together dry pudding filling, sugar and cinnamon.
  4. With kitchen scissors, cut each biscuit into four pieces, letting them drop directly into pudding mixture. Every six biscuits or so, toss pieces around to coat fully and drop into Bundt pan.
  5. When half of the biscuits are in the Bundt pan, drizzle a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture onto the coated biscuit pieces.
  6. Finish cutting all the biscuits. Evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pieces.
  7. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Invert pan onto a large baking sheet and lift Bundt pan off.

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Once upon a time…

The tartness grabs her taste buds and effervesces like teensy Pop Rocks on a wet tongue. When the first creamy bite of cheesecake hits her mouth, she’ll wonder if she even likes the combination of Key lime and blackberry.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She takes another bite.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She likes it enough to pile her fork with chunk after chunk and before she knows it, the tiny slice she “tried” is gone.

Key Lime Blackberry Cheesecake

Later that evening, she’ll be standing in front of the refrigerator with a clean fork.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

A few months later, she’ll ask her sister when she is going to make Key lime blackberry cheesecake again.

Key lime cheesecake

But her sister will not know because her other sister requested turtle cheesecake a long, long time ago and more recently requested taco cheesecake. She’s just not sure which to make first.

She chooses to make taco cheesecake and everyone lives happily ever after.

Taco cheesecake

The end.

~~~~~

Key lime blackberry swirl cheesecake

This recipe makes one 9″ pan. I made one 6″ springform and four 6″ tart pans with this recipe. 

Crust:

4 cups pretzels

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling:

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup lime curd, stirred well to loosen it up

5 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature

5 teaspoons flour

1/2 cup Key lime juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

1 jar (10 ounces) seedless blackberry jam or preserves, stirred well to loosen it up

blackberries for serving with each piece

Make the crust:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine pretzels, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

If you don’t have a food processor, put pretzels in a plastic storage bag and bang with a heavy object like a can of soup to make fine crumbs. Combine everything in a bowl. 

Dump the mixture into a greased 9″ springform pan and press down with bottom of measuring cup. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven.

Make the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy, making sure there are no lumps. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Whip in lime curd. Beat in sour cream and flour. At this point, make sure cheesecake filling is smooth because once you add the eggs, you don’t want to beat it vigorously.

Stir in Key lime juice and vanilla.

With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each one.

Pour half the filling into crust. Drop teaspoons of blackberry jam randomly into filling, using three-fourths of jam. With a butter knife, gently swirl jam into batter without touching crust. Pour second half of filling into pan and drop teaspoons of jam into the batter, swirling gently with butter knife.

  • For 9″ springform bake at 350 degrees.
  • For 6″ springform bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
  • For 6″ tart pans bake at 275 degrees for 28-33 minutes.

Remove from oven when center is slightly jiggly. It will continue to bake once removed. Cool to room temperature. Chill in fridge for 24 hours. Serve with blackberries.

Store leftovers in refrigerator up to one week or in freezer up to three months.

Also try Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce and Key lime pie.

Sweet fairytale wishes,

Staci

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My initial, snarkier title to this story was, “Stop whining about your life: get off your ass and do something about how miserable you are.” But I didn’t want to turn anyone off or put a damper on someone’s never-ending pity party. At least not until they read a sentence or two. After all, there is dessert at the end.

cherry crunchobblerumble

So after three weeks of writing this post, I deleted almost every word.

cherry pie filling in jars

Spoon pie filling into jars

I reminded myself that it’s really none of my business when someone who was in complete control of their own destiny acts as if someone else controlled their misery—as if they were a puppet on a rusty barbed wire. Instead of being judgmental and sad for a person who has so many regrets in life, I decided to spit my bitter pill across the kitchen, reflect on my own life, and just be thankful.

cake mix in jars

Sprinkle dry cake mix on top of filling

Thankful that after all the mistakes I’ve made, and as the smoke lingers from the unfortunate and life-changing things that I’ve dealt with, I have faith that I am right where I need to be. After all, the things I’ve done right outweigh any of my misjudgments.

melted butter on cake mix

Drizzle melted butter onto cake mix

Take if from someone who’s made some really awful choices and had to bust their ass to get through college as a single mom in their late 20s because of my own decisions and actions in my teens and 20s—success doesn’t come easy.

Successful people work hard and I can guarantee they have been so sleep deprived that they wear their shirt inside out and backwards in public, been stressed to their limits, been so frustrated they want to throw in the wet towel that’s weighing them down, have made tough and heartbreaking decisions which have led to unstoppable tears, sacrificed financial prosperity just to stay close to family, and persevered through many other sacrifices and harsh battles that only the few people closest to them know anything about.

baked cherry jars

Bake until golden brown

The happiness of life and loving family and friends prevail, and that alone is victory.

cherry crunchobblerumble

The “poor me I didn’t get to live my life like I wanted” story has gotten old. And I take my own advice. When I find myself complaining about the same thing time and time again, there comes a point where I need to take action or shut up.

Is your picnic basket old and cracked and you think it isn’t strong enough to carry something sweet? I bet it’s vintage and there are a hundred stories behind its tattered appearance. Cherish those stories of picnics, family reunions, lake days, and road trips taken. Strengthen it with a block of wood and get to your picnic. If it just doesn’t work anymore, toss dessert into a paper bag and get on with your life.

(Read “Do not call it pie, it’s cherry crunchobblerumble” to find out how it got its name.)

Cherry Crunchobblerumble in 4-ounce jars

30-ounce can cherry pie filling

1-1/2 cups dry yellow cake mix

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Heat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly grease eight, 4-ounce canning jars and set on a baking sheet.
  3. Evenly divide and spoon pie filling into jars.
  4. Sprinkle dry cake mix on top of filling, leaving approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch open at the top.
  5. With a spoon, lightly sprinkle the melted butter over the dry cake mix, until all the dry mix has butter on it. You can spread it a little with the spoon.
  6. Bake at 350° for 20-23 minutes, or just until the tops are light golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool completely before you put the lids on.
  8. Leave the covered jars at room temperature for a day or two, or stick them in the refrigerator.

Sweet and snarky wishes with no regrets,

Staci

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Hannah graduates from SDSU in a couple of weeks and it was her last day working in our group. Sticking with tradition, we had a food day—no nuts, no peanut butter. Hannah loves chocolate and deep dark chocolate cheesecake with honey ganache is irrefutably the most decadent chocolate dessert I make. And eat.

Perhaps it was the cool air breezing through the kitchen window when I opened the oven door, or maybe I overbeat the batter like a cheesecake novice that I am not.

deepest darkest chocolate cheesecake

But no matter what it was, the crack in my cheesecake made the perfect cranny for the ganache to nestle into like a silk scarf tucked into a cashmere coat.

ganache in cheesecake crack

Candid iPhone picture while slicing the cheesecake

I’m hoping I can make the same mistake again. And again. And again.

deepest darkest chocolate cheesecake

Deepest Darkest Chocolate Cheesecake with Honey Ganache is on foodnetwork.com. I’ve used the recipe since 2013 when I shared it in Save the bees, make chocolate cheesecake with honey ganache. I use the ganache recipe for a lot of my desserts because I like to use locally-harvested honey instead of corn syrup.

Don’t be afraid to add the coffee to the filling and to the ganache. Just like in Is that coffee in your cookie or just intensified chocolate, coffee simply deepens the flavor of the chocolate.

Sweet mistake wishes,

Staci

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I gave Jason a choice for his belated birthday dessert—Key lime cheesecake with Patrón sauce or Key lime pie. He chose Key lime pie, but specified he wanted one with pretzel crust.

Key lime pie with pretzel crust

Heck if I’ve ever written down my recipe so it always takes me a while to figure out how to make it again. And then I worry that it’s not as good as last time.

Key lime pie

When it was done, I put the pie in the refrigerator and texted Jason that it would be ready to eat when he and Camden got back to our house that night. The next morning I noticed that there were only two pieces gone. Worried that the pie didn’t turn out, I questioned Jason like a cop busting up an underage party. The interrogation was unwarranted though, as he assured me they liked the pie but it was too sweet to eat huge slices at midnight.

Key lime pie

Crisis averted. So that I have the recipe for his next February birthday, here’s the recipe for our favorite Key lime pie—best savored one slice at a time.

For a lighter dessert perfect for Easter Sunday, make summer breeze lime pie from Midwest Living.

Key lime pie 

Crust

1-1/2 cups pretzel crumbs (approximately 4 cups pretzels)

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling

2 cans (14 ounces each) sweetened condensed milk

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup Key lime juice

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Key lime or lime zest

Whipped cream for topping, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine pretzel crumbs, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until combined. (Or mix crust ingredients in a bowl.)
  3. Lightly spray 9-inch pie plate. Drop the crust mix into the pan and firmly pat down evenly with the bottom of a measuring cup or the palm of your hand.
  4. Bake crust 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
  5. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, pour in the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, Key lime juice, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high until mixed well.
  6. Stir in lime zest.
  7. Pour filling into crust.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or just until set.
  9. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
  10. Keep leftovers in refrigerator up to 4 days.

Sweet and sour birthday wishes,

Staci

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If my best friend Darya hadn’t been killed by her husband when she was 22, we would have celebrated her 44th birthday last month. She was Lutheran. My Grandpa Elroy died quite a few years ago. He was Baptist. My sisters and I grew up with the teachings and influence of a Protestant church. They both belong to different churches now.

monster cookie bars

 

I’ve spent the past 14 years attending Mass and holy celebrations with Jason and his family. Last fall I decided to convert. This Easter I will be baptized into the Catholic Christian church. As I’ve been attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes, I’ve been thinking about what happens to us when we die. Of course, I want to spend my eternal life in heaven with my family and friends, no matter their Christian religion. I want to be in the presence of Darya’s spirit again. I want to eat hard butterscotch candy with my grandpa. I want to hang out with my kids and my sisters. If we get to kiss in heaven, I want to kiss Jason each heavenly morning. So however we need to live our lives on earth to get to heaven, let’s be there together.

monster cookie bars

What does that have to do with a big batch of monster cookie bars? It was my turn for treat night at RCIA the week of Darya’s birthday. People loved these, especially Father Andrew. I gave him an extra one to take home. It was a compliment that people came back for seconds.

Cookie dough balls ready for freezer

Read about how I got this recipe and how I freeze cookie dough balls in Your IT guy knows how to make monster cookie bars and strips.

Monster cookies and bars

2 sticks softened butter

2-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

4 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla

9 cups quick-cooking oats

2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups plain M&M’s

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare pans. If you want to use all your cookie dough at once, you can make one 13×9 pan of bars (baking time takes about 20-25 minutes) and at least two dozen large cookies (baking time takes about 12-16 minutes). Or, you can make two 13×9 pans of bars. Or if you only want cookies, you can make at least six dozen enormous cookies, a few more dozen if you make smaller cookies.

  1. In large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream softened butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add white sugar and brown sugar, beating until well combined.
  3. Add baking soda.
  4. Add eggs and beat well.
  5. Pour in corn syrup and vanilla. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated well.
  6. At this point, you should be able to add at least a few cups of the oats and still use your mixer. But once the dough gets too heavy, stop using the mixer and continue adding oats stirring the batter with a wooden spoon. Use your sexy arm muscles.
  7. Stir in the M&M’s and chocolate chips.

If you are making bars, spread half of the dough into a 13×9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown. If you take the pan out before they turn golden brown, the middle will not be done.

For cookies, baking time depends on how large you make them. Place on cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, gently push down the dough a little bit so that they spread out instead of baking in one mound. Bake at 350° for 12-16 minutes, or until golden brown. I like to sprinkle just a tiny bit of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt on mine when they come out of the oven.

Sweet heavenly wishes,

Staci

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