Key Lime Cheesecake

Keylime cheese cake

I’m not a really big sweets person.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my chocolate.  But although I make a lot of desserts for my kids, my family and friends, I don’t really like desserts that are really on the sweet side.  I do like cheesecakes.  I think it’s because they are not really sweet.  Even the recipes that are very, very rich.  I can have one slice and be satisfied.  I posted my favorite, the chocolate cheesecake, earlier today and then thought of my second favorite.  So here it is, my Key Lime Cheesecake.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

6 tablespoons melted butter

3 packages of cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

3 eggs

1 tablespoon lime zest

2/3 cup key lime juice

Combine cracker crumbs with melted butter and stir.  Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan.  Refrigerate while making the rest of the cheesecake. In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, lime zest, sugar and cornstarch until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the key lime juice.  Do not over beat or the cheesecake will crack.  You want it just mixed in. Remove pan from refrigerator and pour batter into the pan.   Bake at 300 degrees for about 55 minutes.  The center will just about be set at this point.  (Tip:  I put a shallow pan half full of water on the rack under the cheesecake while baking.  This keeps the oven from being too dry and helps keep the cheesecake from cracking in the center)  Turn oven off and let sit in the oven with the door slightly open (about 4 inches) for about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and refrigerate overnight before serving.  I serve this with whipped cream sprinkled with a little lime zest.  Very pretty and gives it the little extra lime zip.  This is a very popular cheesecake that is asked for quite often.

Cashew Chicken

cashew chicken

My family loves Chinese food.  We look for really good restaurants and once we find one that we like, we go there to eat when we want to go out.  When I find a dish I really like, I have to come home and try to re-create it.  I have always been able to eat something and be able to identify the ingredients.  Then I come home and start playing with the ingredients until I have the recipe that I like.  Cashew Chicken is one of my favorites.  I love cashews and Cashew chicken is a simple dish to make.  If you love Chinese food, especially Cashew Chicken, then I think this will become one of your favorite recipes.

1 1/2 pounds boneless, chicken breasts, cut into cubes about 1 inch

1 tablespoon cornstarch

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons cooking oil

6 cloves, garlic, minced

8 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoon rice wine

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3/4 cups raw cashews, toasted

In a medium bowl, toss chicken pieces with cornstarch until the chicken is well coated.  Season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat and cook half the chicken, stirring often, until lightly brown.  Remove to a plate and add the remaining oil and cook the rest of the chicken.  Just before it is lightly browned, add the garlic and green onion white pieces to the skillet.  When the chicken is lightly browned, add the rice wine and cook until the wine is evaporated.  This takes only about 30 seconds.  Add the hoisin sauce and 1/4 cup water.  cook tossing the mixture around, for about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add green onion top pieces and the cashews.  Serve over white rice.  This serves about 4 people.

Chocolate Cheesecake

chocolate cheesecake

I love cheesecake and if it’s chocolate cheesecake, that’s even better.  So many people tell me that they can’t make cheesecake.  It’s not hard to make.  You just have to make sure you don’t over bake it and it’s not something that you can just throw together.  You have to take your time with it and make sure you follow all the steps.  Here is my chocolate cheese cake recipe.  It’s always been a winner at family functions, church dinners and potlucks.  Try it.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a really good cheesecake.

1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafer cookies (pulse in food processor until cookies are crumbs)

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter

3-8 ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tablespoons flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

8 ounces melted semisweet chocolate, cooled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 9 inch springform pan.  In a mixing bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and 3 tablespoons sugar and the butter.  Mix well.  Press onto the bottom of the springform pan.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese, rest of the sugar, vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy.  Add the flour to the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth.  Add the melted chocolate and the sour cream and mix well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after you add each one.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for up to 1 hour and 10 minutes until the center is almost set.  Don’t overbake it or the center will crack.  Run a sharp knife around the rim of the pan and place the pan on a wire rack to cool.  When cool.  Remove rim and place the cake in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes

I love cupcakes.  They are so much easier than cakes.  You can mix them up and serve lots of different flavors, giving everyone more choice.  They are just the right size.  I love anything that has lime in it, so this is one of my favorites.

Yield:   about 2 dozen cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Tequila to brush cupcakes with

Icing:

2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch salt
1½ cups (3 sticks)  butter, at room temperature
2½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 tbsp. tequila

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Brush the cooled cakes with tequila to emphasize the true margarita flavor.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks too thin or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (some times it takes a very long time!)  Stir in the lime juice and tequila and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.  Frost the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream.  Garnish with lime zest and lime slices as desired.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie

I had someone ask at work for my Chicken Pot Pie recipe, so here it is.  Tender crust with a surprising ingredient, plenty of chicken and vegetables in a creamy gravy.  This makes two standard pies or one larger pie.  When I make two, I eat one that night and freeze the other for another night.

Crust

5 cups flour

2 tsp. salt

4 tablespoons sugar

4 sticks butter, cold, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup vodka, cold

1/4 cup ice water

Process the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combines.  Add butter and pulse until dough is mealy looking (kind of like cottage cheese) Empty mixture into a bowl and sprinkle vodka and water over the mixture.  Using a spatula , use a folding motion to mix together.  Press on dough to make a tacky, ball. Divide into 4 portions and place each portion on top of a sheet of plastic wrap.  Bring up sides and pat down into a flat, oval disk.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and move to the next portion.  When all portions are flattened and wrapped, place in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes to an hour.  You can keep this in your refrigerator up to 2 days, or flatten to about 1 inch thick and freeze for up to 2 weeks.

 

Chicken Filling

3/4 cup sliced celery

2 1/2 cups cooked chicken (I use a whole chicken and cook and pull off the bones when cool, but will also use chicken breasts, if I want to make it faster)

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables

1/2 cup frozen corn

1 cup potatoes, cubed

1 onion, diced

4  fresh sage leaves, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Cover vegetable with chicken stock.  Add more water if needed to cover vegetables.  Add herbs and garlic. (Note:  if you don’t want to use fresh herbs, use 2 tsp. of poultry seasoning) Bring to a boil and reduce heat to med high.  Cook until vegetables are fork tender.  Taste broth and add salt and pepper as needed.  Add chicken to the broth and stir to mix.  Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with enough water to make a slurry.  Bring broth back to a boil and pour in cornstarch slurry. Boil for a few minutes until thickened.  Set to the side to cool.

Dust work surface with flour and roll out one crust disk large enough to fit the pie pan.  Ease the dough into the pan and trim excess dough.  Roll out second disk and fit into a second pie pan, trim.  Divide filling between the two pie pans.  Roll out disk large enough to cover the pie pan.  Place on top, trim and roll under and crimp around the edges to seal the top crust to the bottom crust.  Do the same with the second pie.  Cut vents in top.  At this point you can bake both at 400 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, until golden brown, or you can allow one of the pies to cool. Then wrap it in foil and freeze up to 2 weeks.  If you want to make a large pie, you can combine two disks and roll out into a rectangle.  Fit crust into a 13×9 inch baking pan, fill and then roll the remaining two disks into a rectangle and fit on top.  Then trim and crimp top all the way around.  Cut vents and bake for 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Allow pie to sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

King Ranch Casserole

King ranch casserole

This is a popular recipe in Texas. You see lots of different versions of it. It shows up at potlucks and church dinners.  It’s a crowd pleaser and serves a lot of people for very little money.  Most of the recipes I have seen use a can of cream of mushroom and a can of cream of chicken, but to make your own cream sauce is so much tastier. Gives the dish a much richer flavor.

Cream sauce

1 stick butter

1 med. onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I prefer Bella)

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 cup flour

3 cups chicken stock or broth (this is better homemade also)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 10 oz. Rotel tomatoes

1 small can green chiles, diced

 

Casserole

18 corn tortillas

1/2 cup chicken stock or broth

3 – 4 cups shredded chicken (I like lots of chicken in mine)

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic.  Saute for about 6-7 minutes.  Add the chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute longer.  Sprinkle the flour into the pan slowly and stir until the flour is incorporated into the mixture.  Whisk in 3 cups of the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth each time.  Whisk in the cream and stir in the diced chiles.  Add the tomatoes.  The cream sauce should be thick, if not allow to cook just a little longer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Place 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a bowl large enough to hold the unfolded tortillas.  Stack 6 of the tortillas in the bowl, make sure they are covered with stock. .  Line the bottom of the baking sheet with the 6 tortillas, they will overlap about one-third.  Cover with half of the cream sauce.  Add half of the chicken and sprinkle with one-third of the cheeses.  Add 6 more tortillas to the bowl of stock, making sure to cover with stock.  Layer these on top, making sure they overlap about one-third.  Top with the cream sauce, the rest of the chicken and one-third of the mixed cheeses. Place the rest of the tortillas in the bowl of stock, flip them if needed to make sure that each one get dipped in the stock.  Place a layer on top, making sure they overlap. Top with the rest of the cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour till hot and bubbly.  Should be lightly browned on the top.  Remove from oven and let sit at least 10 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve.

You can make this casserole in advance (no more than 3 days) or even make it and freeze it (no more than 3 weeks)

Plum Crisp

plum crisp

I love plums.  I like them fresh, in jams and love them to make tarts and crisps.  Crisps are so easy.  No pastry to roll out.  You can use just about any kind of fruit and the end results are wonderful.  So with my love of plums, I just had to try them in a crisp.  Here is the very simple recipe.

4 cups sliced plums (any type)

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup oats (I use old-fashioned – the quick oats just seem to disappear in the topping)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl toss plums, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon till plums are coated.  Pour into an ungreased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  In a bowl combine all topping ingredients and cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbly(since it is a small amount, I use my fingers for this part).  Distribute topping evenly over plums.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is crispy and golden brown.  Serve warm by itself or with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.