Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

This is the best and easiest cheesecake recipe ever.  I’ve made it a few times, and it is always a hit.  When Geoff and I were dating, he said he liked cheesecake.  So I started looking at recipes.  When I come across words like “water bath,” I almost scrapped the whole thing.  But then I found this one which looked too easy to be good, and it was delicious! 

I love the tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the blueberries.  It is just the perfect refreshing little dessert snack after a big meal.  

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Ok, they may not be the prettiest bars, but I am not a pretty cook.  We know this.  If you want a prettier bar, skip making the sauce and just put the blueberries on the cheesecake before baking, as shown in the link listed.  I wanted there to be more of a blueberry flavor, so I opted for a sauce. 

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars – adapted from Epicurean Mom

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 9 graham crackers (about 1 1/2 cups when crumbled)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter.  Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners.  In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate.  Pour into the lined baking pan and firmly pat down with the bottom of a glass.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until set.

Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to the food processor and pulse until well combined.  It should have a smooth consistency.  Pour onto the cooked graham cracker base. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the center only slightly jiggles.  

In the meantime, heat your blueberries in a saucepan over low to medium heat.  Once warmed, smash around half of the blueberries, leaving the remaining ones intact.

Once your cheesecake is done, remove it from the oven.  Let cool slightly before pouring your blueberry sauce on top.  Then, let your cheesecake come to room temperature and then refrigerate it for at least three hours.  Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into bars.

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Beer Steamed Crabs

I’ve been sitting on a faux boiled crab recipe that I got from my cousin Lisa for about a year now.  Why did I wait so long to make these??? By faux, I mean you don’t have to go outside and have a big traditional crab boil.  You can cook them inside, with minimal fuss and cleanup.  Another perk?  They are even BETTER than traditional boiled crabs.  This is because you take the shell off the crab before you cook them, allowing the crabmeat to soak up butter, garlic, and seasoning.  These crabs reminded me of delicious French mussels, but even better because of the blue crabs! 

I made the traditional South Louisiana dip that is always made for crab and crawfish boils.  Combo of ketchup, mayo, horseradish, lemon, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, and maybe some other things I’m forgetting now.  Anyway, the crabs were so good that the dip was just a bad idea (except for potato dipping).  You don’t need, and shouldn’t add, anything to these delicious crabs.   

Has it been adequately conveyed to you that you HAVE to make these crabs??? 

You can make as few crabs as you want (I made only 6, which I most regretted) up to 2 dozen.  In making a smaller amount, I lessened all the ingredients except the beer. 

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Beer Steamed Crabs

  • 2 dozen live crabs 
  • 2-3 sticks of butter (you can use more or less depending on your preference)
  • 2 whole pods of garlic (you can use more or less depending on your preference), minced or sliced
  • Tony’s or other cajun seasoning 
  • 20 oz beer, whatever you have on hand (we used Yuengling, but ideally I would use Abita Amber) 

Chill crabs on ice so they do not pinch you while cleaning them. Take off top shell and take the lungs out and spray off all the guts out of the crabs.  I did not like the “killing” part of this recipe, so Geoff took over.

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You’re going to need a fairly big pot.  Make first layer of crabs around the bottom of the pot and sprinkle with Tony’s and slices of butter and garlic.  Make another layer of crabs on top of the first layer and again sprinkle with Tony’s and slices of butter and garlic. Continue making layers until all the crabs are in the pot.

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Take 20 oz of beer and pour it around the edge of the pot so the Tony’s seasoning doesn’t get poured off the crabs. You can sprinkle more seasoning after pouring the beer if you think some of it washed off.

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Cover the pot and cook on medium to high heat until you see steam coming from the pot. Once you see steam coming from the pot, set a timer for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes is up, they are done and ready to eat! 

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I served it with boiled potatoes (just quartered red potatoes boiled in crab boil and seasoning) and beer!  I actually made this for my birthday dinner and this meal was oh-so-worthy of the honor. 

 

 

Roasted Veggie Pasta

After coming back from Europe, my stomach needed a serious break from heavy food.  So, I went in search of a recipe with roasted veggies, whole grains, and no meat and came across this.  Perfect weekday meal.  Would have been even better with a crisp wine.

I love any excuse to go to this fruit/vegetable store called The Vegetable Bin in Charleston – awesome produce and even better prices. This recipe has fresh asparagus, zucchini, onion, garlic, and basil.  It calls for the use of canned tomatoes, which i think helps make the sauce “sauce-ier.”  But I’m sure roasting fresh tomatoes would make this recipe even better.  Add whole wheat pasta and a little bit of freshly grated pecorino, and you have a delicious, easy meal.  (If you want to make this vegan, I ate leftovers without cheese, and I didn’t even miss it.)  After eating this, my husband declared, “You are the master at pastas.”  Pretty good compliment for something without a lot of fat, or even meat.

Roasted Veggie Pasta

  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick (try to slice to the thickness of the asparagus, so they will cook uniformly)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper, and Italian seasoning
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 -ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, toss the zucchini and asparagus with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

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Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 more seconds. Increase the heat to medium high, add the tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.  Season to taste, adding salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

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Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the sauce. Add the roasted vegetables and the reserved cooking water; toss to combine.  Finally, stir in the cheese and basil.

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When serving, top with additional cheese (and red pepper flakes for us!) if desired.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Ok y’all, I made the best cake I’ve ever made (not that I make cake that often) for Easter Sunday:  Strawberry Shortcake Cake, modified from The Pioneer Woman’s Recipe.  My favorite desserts, other than cookies, usually involve fruit and a whipped-textured icing/topping.  Give me pound cake with freshly whipped cream and berries, and I’m a happy girl.  

For Easter, I was going to a crawfish boil – yes, here in ole’ Charleston whoooo – so I knew I wanted a lighter, i.e. not chocolate, fruity dessert since we’d be outside.  Mom saw The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake, and I was sold.  Two thin layers of crumbly cake, which become soaked with fresh strawberries and their juices and then topped with a cream cheese frosting.  UM YES.  I did make some modifications from her recipe based on the two complaints in the reviews (always read the reviews of recipes for modifications!): a bit too sweet and the icing was too heavy.  I cut some sugar from the strawberry mixture and changed the icing for a more whipped textured icing, though still cream cheese based.  The icing was from Divas Can Cook

I also took advice of making the cake the night before and letting the cake sit in the refrigerator overnight so the cake becomes thoroughly soaked with strawberry juice.  When I cut into the cake, the middle verrrry slightly fell from being soaked into the juice.  Hey, this made it delicious, and I never claim to make a pretty dessert. 

Go buy fresh strawberries and make this now! 

Strawberry Shortcake Cake – adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

  • 1-½ cup Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1-½ cup Sugar
  • 3 whole Large Eggs
  • ½ cups Sour Cream, Room Temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

Icing and filling ingredients:

  • 2- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • Extra sugar

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch.  Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.  Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined. 

Pour into greased and floured 9 inch cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes, or until no longer jiggles when lightly shakes.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack, allowing it to cool completely. 

Stem strawberries and slice them in half from top to bottom.  Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, mash strawberries with a fork.  Allow to sit for another 30 minutes. 

Make icing:  Beat cream cheese, butter and heavy whipping cream until fluffy and combined.  Add vanilla.  Mix in powdered sugar a little at a time.  Continue mixing on high speed until creamy and light.  Add more cream or powdered sugar to adjust the thickness if needed.

Once cake is completely cool, slice in half through the middle.  Spread strawberries evenly over each half, cut side up, pouring on all the juices.  

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Place cake halves in freezer for five minutes to make icing easier.  (Icing it is a bit tricky, as you don’t want to disturb the strawberries too much.  Apparently, freezing the cake, and even the icing for a little bit, helps with icing.)

Remove from freezer.  Using a little less than 1/3 of icing, spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer.  Place top layer on, then add half of remaining icing to the top, spreading evenly.   Put cake back in freezer for five minutes.  Then, spread remaining icing around the sides. 

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Serve after crawfish and be in spring heaven! 

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I couldn’t stop to take a pic until most of the crawdads were gone.  Some things are just more important than picture-taking. 

Cauliflower “Cream” Sauce over Rice

You’ve probably already pinned this recipe – it is definitely going Pinterest-viral right now.  This recipe is Pinch of Yum’s Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Rice.  She also uses the same sauce to make other stuff, like Pasta Alfredo.

No, it is not a low-carb recipe for rice that is actually grated cauliflower.  It is actual brown rice with a faux cream sauce.  We’ve all been duped by low calorie cream sauces that just leave a literal bad taste in our mouths.  This one, though… this one is something special.  The sauce ingredients: cauliflower, vegetable broth, a little milk (which can be left out if you don’t want the dairy), and seasoning.

I kept test-tasting the sauce throughout the process of cooking and was thoroughly unconvinced this sauce was gonna successfully masquerade as anything other than cauliflower.  When I sat down to eat, I was surprised – it was quite good.  BUT, when I ate leftovers the next day andddd the day after that, I was in absolute health heaven.  As in, you have no idea that it’s healthy.

In addition to the sauce, you use whole grain rice, garlic, a little bit of butter, and part-skim mozzarella cheese (again, this would still be delicious if you made this dairy-free).   I only used 4 cloves of garlic, less than the original recipe called for, because some reviews said it was overly garlicky – this was a big mistake.  I will definitely use a full 8 cloves next time.  You can top this dish with some protein – I added sliced chicken breast.

I do recommend letting this recipe sit for hours before eating for the best taste.  As the cauliflower sauce sits with the rice, it tastes less and less like.. well, cauliflower.

Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Rice – from Pinch of Yum

  • 6-8 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 4 cups vegetable broth + 2 cups water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1½ cups brown rice blend
  • Salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6-8 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup part-skim Mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Protein for topping (I added sliced chicken breast)
  • Parsley for garnishment

Cook the rice according to package directions. Set aside.  Bring the vegetable broth and water to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and boil for about 10 minutes, until tender. Save the broth when straining.

Transfer cauliflower pieces to a blender or food processor.  Add milk and a couple of cups of the broth/water mixture you saved to the blender.  Puree the cauliflower, adding any additional vegetable broth required to get a smooth, creamy consistency.

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Season the sauce heavily – salt, pepper (I use black and red pepper).  Pour over the cooked rice and stir to combine.  Try to let this mixture sit for awhile, as it gets better the longer it melds.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter and add the garlic, sauteing over low heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the creamy rice mixture and stir until butter and garlic is incorporated. Stir cheese throughout the rice to get it melted.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve topped with sliced chicken breast and parsley (as well as any additional cheese you may want to sneak in).  Enjoy – and SAVE LEFTOVERS!

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World’s Best Potato Salad

I did not come up with the name for this potato salad.  My mom did, which means it’s true – it is the world’s best.  No seriously, it is freakin delicious.  It is the perfect accompaniment to Mom’s Chicken and Andouille Gumbo.

Potato salad is one of my nonsensical exceptions to my weirdness over mayonnaise.  It pains me to make this dish, which makes me measure a cup of mayo.  Haha.  Mayo just does not belong in most things (party dips, gross).  I have a nacho recipe that calls for mayo – no.  But, mayo has its place, and it’s in this recipe.  Or chicken salad.  Or deviled eggs.  Or very thinly put on a sammich.  Biting into a mayonnaise poboy makes me sad.

Anyway, back to this recipe.  It is soooo good that I don’t care if there’s a jar of mayo in it.  A lot of seasoning is put into it.  Right after I mixed the seasoning in, I tasted it and thought it was overpowering.  Just let the seasoning soak into the potatoes and eggs for a little bit, and it’s fantastic.   Finally, this makes a good bit of potato salad (at least 10 servings).

World’s Best Potato Salad

  • 6 medium red potatoes
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 T mustard (plain yellow kind)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Boil potatoes and eggs together, removing eggs from boiling water after 10 minutes. Cut eggs in half and remove yolks. Dice egg whites and put in bowl with parsley, onions, celery.

Remove potatoes after 45 min (or when potato easily breaks with a fork) and peel under cool water. Dice potatoes into 1 inch cubes and toss with above ingredients. In a separate bow, mix egg yolks (which i crumbled in my hands first), mustard, mayo and powdered seasonings. Mix with potatoes, etc. Check for additional salt, if needed.  Serve at room temp or fridge-cold, per your preference.

Try to make this enough ahead of time to let the potato salad sit for a couple hours for the seasonings to soak in.  I did this in the fridge but then let the potato salad return to room temp before serving because duh.

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Mom’s Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

I’m sure everyone thinks theyyy momma makes the best gumbo, but I assure you, my momma does.  This is my all-time, number one comfort dish.  When I’ve been away from home too long or if I’m feeling sickly, this is all I want to eat.  On my last trip home, I ate this three nights.

Gumbo should never be rushed.  It is something you should devote a whole day to (Sunday, IMO).  That is why this recipe makes so much gumbo – you don’t want to make this every time you want gumbo.  Gumbo freezes wonderfully.

I like to give myself two days to make gumbo b/c I don’t like to work at it all day!  On Day 1, I do all the chopping work and I cook my chicken and make my broth.  This also makes it easier to scrape the grease of your broth after refrigerating it overnight.  Then on Day 2, all you have to do is make a roux and let things simmer for a few hours!

This time making it, I served it at my Mardi Gras party.  As is custom, I served it with amazing potato salad (recipe to follow) – it is up to you whether you want to stir it in your gumbo like some Louisianians do or keep it on the side.  I compromise and eat it on the side, but lightly dip each spoonful in my gumbo.

Don’t judge the obvious fact that this sausage is NOT andouille – I’m in Charleston, people!!  I could have gone searching for some, but I was super rushed.  Also, I know these coo-yons wouldn’t know the difference. 🙂

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

  • 2 large chickens, each around 5.5 pounds, cleaned – I buy the already cut up ones
  • 1 pound of smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 pound of andouille, sliced – if you don’t have this in your area, just double your smoked sausage
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped – and save the end part you normally throw out
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped – and save the end parts you normally throw out
  • 2 medium to large onions, chopped – and save the ends and skin parts you normally throw out
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped – and save the stem part you normally throw out
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Lawry’s seasoned salt, cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of flour

Step 1: make your broth and cook your chicken

Wash all of the saved parts of the veggies (normally thrown away) until clean.  These veggies are gonna help make your stock more flavorful.  Put 2 quarts of water in a large (seriously, large) stockpot.  Add the garbage veggies (extras), 1 tbsp Lawry’s seasoned , 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, and chicken to the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Then, lower your heat, but keep at a gentle boil, for about 1 hour until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken and then strain your broth. (In other words, you are keeping the brothy part – a little over 2 quarts – and throwing away the garbage veggies.)  Put your broth in the refrigerator and refrigerate your broth overnight if you can.  If you can’t, skim the fat off the top of your broth as best you can.

Debone and chop up all your chicken.  Put in a gallon zipper and refrigerate.

Step 2:  Make that roux and let it get yummy

If you have refrigerated your broth overnight, the fat has congealed to the top – remove that fat.

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Using your LARGE pot, heat your oil over medium heat.  Add 2 cups of flour and whisk until a dark caramel.  Whisk constantly.  This is the making of your roux.  Don’t rush it.  Don’t burn it. Not stirring or whisking constantly will cause the flour to burn and your roux is ruined.  Here is the coloring you’ll see happen with your roux.

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After your roux turns a dark caramel, add your chopped onions.  This will caramelize and release sugars and darken your roux.  After 5-10 minutes, add bell pepper, celery, and garlic.  Saute 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.

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Add reserved broth, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne.  Keep at a low boil and keep covered.  Stir often.  After 45 mins to 1 hour, add sliced sausage and andouille and 4 cups of water.  Cook another hour.  Skim fat off the top layer.

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Add chopped green onion and parsley, chopped chicken, and 2 cups water. Cook another 1/2 hour.  Add additional water according to desired consistency (usually around 1 cup).

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Serve it over fluffy white rice!!!

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(Yes, this is a pic from home with real andouille.)