My Favorite Layered Cheesecake

For my entire life my mom has been making her family cheesecake recipe for the holidays and special occasions.  And as I learned to cook, I began making the same recipe that her grandmother made for as long as she can remember.  So what’s the big deal?  First, you make it in a 13 x 9 pan – so you know there’s plenty to go around and then some!  Second, rather than a single layer of dense creamy goodness, this recipe calls for a rich sweet cream cheese layer and is topped with a sour cream and sugar mixture that gives a secondary texture and a slight bite.  It’s easy to make, but everyone will think you spent a ton of time on it – read how simple it is below.

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MY FAVORITE LAYERED CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Melted Butter

Filling:

  • 3 Bricks (8 Oz. each) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 5 Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla

Topping:

  • 24 Oz. Sour Cream
  • 4 Tbs. Sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, thoroughly mix crust ingredients with a fork.  Pour into a 13 x 9 metal baking pan and press firmly and evenly.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, lightly beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add 1/4 Cup sugar and beat.  Add one egg and beat.  Continue alternating until all sugar and eggs have been combined with cream cheese.  Mixture should be smooth and free of any lumps.
  • Mix in vanilla and then pour mixture over crust in pan.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Turn oven up to 425 degrees while you mix topping.
  • Stir together sour cream and sugar until combined and smooth.  Pour and spread evenly over baked cheesecake.
  • Return to oven and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

I hope you love this decadent dessert as much as my and my wife’s family do!  It will surely be a hit and requested for all of your family functions.  While we aren’t formal and normally serve it out of the pan, you can cut and arrange on a platter for a party, shower, etc.  I recommend using a sharp knife and dipping it in warm water after each cut to prevent sticking and to achieve perfect squares for serving.  Dig in!!

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Sticky Cinnamon Rolls

Holidays were made for indulgences.  Let’s face it, I ate a significant portion of the 65 lbs of ham and turkey I made for Thanksgiving a few days ago.  So why not go the extra mile for my family in town this morning by making some homemade cinnamon rolls?!  Calorie counting will commence promptly on Monday, but I will continue to enjoy the rest of this weekend.  You’ll love the recipe below because it’s easy and also offers a twist with the addition of apricot honey butter (from my home town) and chopped pecans.  Go ahead, make some for yourself and make any weekend morning special.

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STICKY CINNAMON ROLLS

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Warm jar of honey butter in microwave for 30 seconds.  Remove and pour contents into bottom of a 9″ round non-stick pan.  For this recipe I used apricot pecan honey butter from a candle and honey company in Medina, OH called A.I. Root.  However, you an also find the same flavor combination here or at your local retailer.
  • Roll out pizza or bread dough to a 12-inch x 12-inch square.
  • In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon.  Spread in a thin even layer over the pizza dough going completely to the edges.
  • Roll dough from one side tightly until you have a long tube.
  • Cut rolled dough into six pieces and then place sideways into pan of honey butter.  Arrange five on the outside and one in the middle.  Press down slightly so that all edges are touching.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes until top is golden brown and middles are no longer gooey.
  • Remove from oven and top with a heat-safe platter.  Turn baking pan upside down to turn out finished rolls.  Scrape any excess honey butter and pecans onto the top of the cinnamon rolls.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve immediately.

This super-sweet decadent treat is perfect for weekend company or for a brunch event.  It would be easy to triple this recipe and make them in a 13×9 pan as well.  You can also substitute any kind of honey butter here, but I’ll tell you that the apricot gives a wonderful fruity hint to any otherwise really sweet dish.  Either way, I think you’ll make these again and again when you feel the need to indulge.  Dig in and enjoy!

Breaded Pork Chops

Sunday supper and football season = breaded pork chops.  My mom has made this recipe for as long as I can remember – I’ve seriously watched her make these 100 times or more!  And I have never once been disappointed in the result.  When you think breaded pork chops, you think of a crispy schnitzel or something similar.  However, the combination of frying and then slow cooking gives you soft savory no-knife-needed pork chops.  This is the ultimate in comfort food and will be part of your regular rotation for the rest fall and winter!

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BREADED PORK CHOPS

Ingredients

  • 12 Bone-In Center Cut Pork Chops (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
  • 3 Eggs, Beaten
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 6-8 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Using two paper plates, creating a dredging station with beaten eggs in the first plate and bread crumbs in the second.
  • Heat an electric skillet, or a cast iron skillet on the stove top, to about 350 degrees.  Add half of the canola oil.
  • Dip each pork chop first in egg and then in bread crumbs.  Shake off excess and place in hot oil.  Brown 3-4 chops at a time.  Do not overcrowd pan.
  • Brown in oil for 2 minutes per side and place into a glass 13 x 9 baking dish.  Continue process adding more oil as needed until all chops are done and stacked in baking dish.
  • Pour 1/4 cup water into the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake for 2 hours at 325 degrees.
  • Serve immediately.

The simplicity of the ingredients and the slow cooking really bring out the best flavor of the pork.  The fat will render from the breading and the meat so make sure you remove the finished chops from the cooking liquid to both serve and store leftovers.  You won’t believe how tender these turn out – both for dinner and leftovers the next day!  Comfort food is served – thanks mom!  Dig in!

Thai BBQ Short Ribs

While I’ve never had a chance to travel to Asia, I absolutely love all kinds of food from the region.  This recipe for short ribs draws inspiration from Thai cooking and uses satay sauce as the base for the marinade.  Satay is usually made with coconut milk, peanuts, garlic and spices.  It’s an easy marinade that’ll make you devour these short ribs with all their fatty goodness!  You’ll want to try it on chicken as well – the peanut, coconut and spice all make for a warm nutty bbq treat.

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THAI BBQ SHORT RIBS

Ingredients

  • 3 Lbs. Sliced Beef Short Ribs
  • 1/2 Cup Prepared Satay BBQ Sauce (available in most grocery stores with Asian foods)
  • 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
  • 4 Tbs. Lite Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tbs. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Lime Juice
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

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Instructions

  • In a small bowl, stir together satay bbq sauce and remaining ingredients until smooth and brown sugar dissolves.
  • Brush both sides of each short rib with marinade and stack in a 13×9 baking dish.
  • Pour any remaining marinade over the short ribs.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  • Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove each rib from the baking dish and shake off an excess marinade as you place them on a hot grill.  Grill short rib slices over medium heat for 5-7 minutes per side.  Flip them several times to avoid burning the marinade.
  • Serve immediately.

If you’re a fan of Thai food or this is your first foray into the world of satay, I think you’ll be glad you made this recipe!  You can also use the recipe above and substitute an equal amount of peanut butter for the brown sugar and use it as a dipping sauce!  The combination of richness, warmth and a hint of sweetness make this delicious on beef and chicken and any time of the year.  Dig in!

Roasted Chicken, Leeks & Apples

Looking for an alternative to plain baked chicken?  The sweet and savory combination of apples and leeks roasting in the rendered chicken fat are a tasty fall delight.  You’ll love the single-pan simplicity of this dish that’s just good rustic comfort food.  And fall is the perfect time to make it with October and November as the prime season for both apples and leeks.

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ROASTED CHICKEN, LEEKS & APPLES

Ingredients

  • 4 Bone-in Chicken Thighs
  • 3 Large Leeks
  • 3 Medium Apples (Jonamac or another sweet/tart baking variety)
  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper

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Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush a large heavy cookie sheet with 1 Tbs. of olive oil to coat lightly.  Place chicken thighs on sheet, but leave space between them.
  • Wash and dry leeks and apples.  Leeks can get gritty with sand/soil so be sure to wash them thoroughly.
  • Core and slice apples into 6-8 slices each.  Cut the tops off the leeks, cut the bottom in half and then in half lengthwise to get 4 pieces per leek.  Place all leeks and apples on the cookie sheet.  Again, spread out evenly to allow for even roasting and caramelization.
  • Drizzle all ingredients with the remaining 2 Tbs. of olive oil and then salt and pepper.  Top with sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.

As the chicken renders and the skin crisps, the fat will spread through the pan to give everything some delicious “chicken love”.  Mild onion flavor and sweet/tart apples perfumed with thyme are the perfect accompaniment to a perfect chicken thigh.  You can easily double this recipe and use a whole cut up chicken, but you’ll need to use two cookie sheets.  The key is to give everything enough space to roast and caramelize properly.  I have no doubt that this will be a regular in your family’s weekly menu once you try it.  Dig in and enjoy!

Krueger’s Tavern – Cincinnati

The OTR (Over-The-Rhine) area of Cincinnati continues to draw great restaurant and retail development and has firmly secured itself as “the place to see and be seen” downtown.  Last weekend we tried a new (to us) spot in Krueger’s and it will definitely be one to come back to again and again.  Situated right on Vine Street it’s on the south end of the strip.  And like some of it’s sister establishments it has just enough seating and an open garage-door-front that gives you a great place for lunch, dinner and/or drinks while watching the eclectic mix of people stroll by.  However, what Kruger’s has that the others do not is an awesome rooftop deck that’s perfect for afternoon sunshine or evening dining al fresco.

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With a fairly nondescript modern american interior, there is seating at the bar, a few tables and then a wall of tables with banquette seating.  It’s warm, comfortable and a little dark – which I like!  There’s a diverse drink menu with craft cocktails and two beers on tap.  That’s right, just two.  You also have your choice of an amazing array of 70 canned beers as well – from local faves to classic PBR tall boys.  We grabbed a few cans and started our lunch with the warm pretzels and beer cheese.  Made with Rhinegeist Cougar and sharp cheddar, it was delicious.  I’m kicking myself that we didn’t add sausage to it!  The cheese is kept warm in a cast-iron skillet over a small flame – bonus points for the fresh presentation and beer cheese that stays steamy to the last bite!

Krueger’s is known for their house-ground burgers and sausages so we naturally had to sample both.  The burgers are fresh with full beefy flavor and perfectly crispy edges.  They’re all doubles and the classic was excellent.  There are A LOT of great burger places in Cincy and this one is right up there with the best.  We also tried the Lincolnshire english sausage with colcannon (a scrumptious mixture of whipped potatoes and wilted kale).  It was perfectly spiced and a really hearty dish.

Overall, we were definitely impressed with the menu and the fact that they do just a few things and do them really well.  The team at TRG, founders of The Eagle and Bakersfield, hit another home run with this one.  You can find out more on their website at kruegerstavern.com.

Breakfast Stromboli

I love breakfast for any meal any day of the week.  Who doesn’t like pancakes for dinner??  Things can get a little boring sometimes so I like to mix it up with this great recipe for my breakfast stromboli.  Gooey cheese, creamy eggs and salty ham all wrapped up in a pizza dough crust is perfect for breakfast on the go or a hearty dinner.

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BREAKFAST STROMBOLI

Ingredients

  • 1 Tube Prepared Pizza Dough
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Cooked Ham
  • 1/4 Cup Red Onion, Diced
  • 3/4 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Poppy Seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a frying pan, melt butter over medium heat and add onions.  Cook 3-4 minutes until translucent.
  • Add diced ham and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until onions and ham are browned.
  • Beat eggs in a bowl and then pour over ham and onions.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly.  When your scramble is cooked and dry, remove from pan to a dish and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Remove pizza dough and spread out to cover a standard cookie sheet.
  • Place scrambled eggs, ham and onions lengthwise down the middle of the dough.  Leave 2 inches at each end to fold over.
  • Sprinkle cheese over mixture and then fold dough together.  Pinch to seal seam.
  • Fold ends of dough over to seal and then turn the entire stromboli over on cookie sheet so the seam side is down.
  • Cut 3-4 slits in the top to vent while cooking.  Brush or spray lightly with oil and then sprinkle with salt and poppy seeds.
  • Bake for 13-17 minutes until golden brown and dough is cooked through.  You need to bake a little longer than you think because the wet mixture inside will keep the dough from cooking quickly.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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This recipe can be made as a whole stromboli or could be made into smaller individual servings for eating on the go.  Once you get the process down, you can change up the flavors to your liking.  Try using spicy sausage and cream cheese instead of ham and cheddar.  Shredded chicken and diced tomatoes, spinach and swiss cheese are a great combination as well.  I’m sure you’ll love it and so will your family.  Dig in!!