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October 2010

Individual Cherry Vanilla Cheesecakes

Mini Cherry Vanilla Cheesecakes

My friend Pat Loud asked if I could make a dessert for a party she was hosting at her home. The guest of honor was Cherry Vanilla - the famed rock goddess, publicist extraordinaire, poet and performance artist. The evening was to celebrate the release of her new book, Lick Me: How I Became Cherry Vanilla. (available at Amazon click here for Lick Me) The raucous story recalls Vanilla's rock -n- roll life in the fast lane. Filled with tawdry tales of sex and drugs, insider information on the music industry and surprisingly tender recollections of friends and lovers, this groupie memoir is shot throughout with Cherry's undeniable magnetism, charm and insight. From the glamour of New York’s Copacabana in the fifties, to the excitement of London’s punk-rock scene in the seventies - whether backstage or in the spotlight - Cherry Vanilla was there. And though she confesses to being “stoned out” for much of her life, she managed to capture -- in her memory and in her diaries – many multihued moments both saucy and bittersweet. Filmmaker Tim Burton says "reading Lick Me is much like hanging out with Cherry: a refreshing dose of honesty and humor. Considering this book is about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Cherry has an amazing ability to remember it all."

I decided that sinfully rich, individual cherry vanilla cheesecakes would be the perfect dessert for the party.  The recipe couldn’t be easier, and you can double or triple the amounts depending how many your serving.

Individual “Cherry Vanilla” Cheesecakes    

click here to Download Individual Cherry Vanilla Cheesecakes recipe

24 round Keebler shortbread cookies

½ cup seedless raspberry jam

2(8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 large eggs

1 can cherry pie filling


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Place one cookie in each cupcake liner. Dollop each with ½ teaspoon of jam.


With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in condensed milk, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, until incorporated. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.


Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.


Remove cheesecakes from muffin tin. Top each cheesecake with a spoonful of cherry pie filling. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mini Cheesecakes Cookie Jam Crust
Mini Cheesecakes filling
Mini Cheesecakes cooling

Butterscotch Glazed Oatmeal Brownies

Oatmeal Butterscotch Brownies 1

Butterscotch Glazed Oatmeal Brownies

This is a great change of pace from traditional chocolate brownies. The oatmeal and butterscotch compliment each perfectly – buttery, chewy, delicious bars.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick-cooking oats

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces

¾ cup butterscotch chips

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg


2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ cup butterscotch chips

For the bars:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13 by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on all sides.

2. Mix flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Heat butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until nutty brown in color, about 12 minutes. Pour hot butter over butterscotch chips in large bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in brown sugar until dissolved, then whisk in vanilla and egg until combined. Stir in flour mixture in two additions until combined.

3. Spread mixture into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 17 to 19 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack.

For the glaze:

1. Bring brown sugar, water, and salt to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat and add butterscotch chips and whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm bars and cool on rack until warm to touch, about 1 1/2 hours.

2. Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan and cool completely on rack, about 30 minutes. Cut into bars and serve. (Bars will keep in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Oatmeal Butterscotch Brownies oven

Staub American Square Grill Pan

       Staub square grill
This is my favorite grill pan. It's great for "indoor grilling" of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. The Staub journey begins in Alsace, France. Rich in history, food, and craft, it is a region renowned for hearty one-pot recipes. Staub has been producing the best cast iron products for professional and aspiring cooks since 1974. Durable enameled cast iron pan retains and distributes heat evenly and effectively. The black matte enamel inside does not require seasoning and the grill features two pouring spouts for easy juice and fat collection. The interior enamel contains traces of quartz, giving it additional heat resistance and a rougher surface resulting in better browning. The smooth enameled base is compatible with all cooktops including induction.

You can usually find good prices at Amazon - Amazon listing for Staub Grill Pan

Williams Sonoma offers great colors - Williams Sonoma Staub Grill Pans

Mini Shepherd’s Pie made with Leftover Pot Roast

Shepherd pie

Mini Shepherd’s Pie with Leftover Pot Roast

This makes a cozy supper for two using leftover pot roast (see recipe - Click here for French Style Pot Roast recipe).

Download Mini Shepherds Pie with Leftover Pot Roast

3 medium russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup milk, warmed

1 large egg yolk

Salt and pepper

2 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

2 tablespoons water

½ cup frozen peas

10 ounces leftover cooked pot roast, shredded, about 2 cups (See recipe for French Style Pot Roast)

1 cup left over pot roast sauce (See recipe for French Style Pot Roast)

1 cup leftover pot roast onions and mushrooms (See recipe for French Style Pot Roast)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer potatoes until tender and a fork slips in easily when inserted into the center, about 20 minutes.

2. Combine the pot roast, sauce, onions and mushrooms in a saucepan and place over medium-low heat to warm slightly, about 5 minutes.

3. Combine the carrots and water in a microwave safe bowl and set aside.

4. Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan over low heat. Mash the potatoes thoroughly with a potato masher. Add the butter and stir until melted, then stir in the warm milk and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover to keep warm while preparing the filling.

5. Meanwhile microwave the carrots and water, covered, on high until tender, 2-4 minutes. Stir in the peas.

6. Spread meat mixture in a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Spread carrots and peas over meat mixture.  For the final layer, spread the potato mixture over vegetables to cover completely. 

7. Bake until top is golden brown, about 15-17 minutes.

Shepherd pie layers
Shepherd pie dish

Make-Ahead Blue Ribbon Blueberry Pie

Make Ahead Blueberry Pie slice

Make-Ahead Blue Ribbon Blueberry Pie

I love make-ahead recipes, whether it’s the main course or dessert, it’s nice to have some of the work done in advance. Blueberry Pie is one of my favorites, but can be tricky because the juicy berries can create a challenge for maintaining a crispy crust. I discovered this recipe from Cooks Country and I think it’s my new favorite.  Trader Joe’s has great dried blueberries at a reasonable price, but if you can't find them, dried cranberries will work as well. If you don’t feel like making your own crust, just use one 15-ounce box Pillsbury Just Unroll! pie crust.

1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough (recipe follows)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 whole graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs

6 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen 

1 ¼ cups dried blueberries or cranberries

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons Minute tapioca

2 teaspoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

PREPARE CRUSTS On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 dough into 12-inch circle (if using store-bought dough, you do not need to roll either crust). Transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Brush crust with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with half of cracker crumbs evenly over crust. Cover with plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.


1.  Heat 4 cups blueberries and cranberries in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally and mashing slightly, until blueberries break down and mixture is thickened, 8 to 10 minutes for fresh berries, 10-13 minutes for frozen (mixture should measure about 1 1/4 cups).

2. Let cool slightly, and then stir in sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, cinnamon and remaining blueberries. Refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes.


1. Transfer filling to dough-lined pie plate. Sprinkle remaining cracker crumbs over filling. Drizzle remaining melted butter over crushed graham crackers. Place pie in refrigerator while rolling out top crust. Brush border of bottom crust with water, then arrange top crust over pie. Crimp edges of pie. Cut six 1-inch slits about 1 inch from crust and four 1-inch slits near center of pie. Allow pie to firm in freezer for 1 hour. Once pie is firm, wrap it tightly with plastic, then aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.


1.  Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap pie and bake until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, about 80 minutes. Let cool on wire rack at least 2 hours. Serve.

Double-Crust Pie Dough

Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled

6 – 8 tablespoons ice water

1. Process the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the shortening over the top and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and, using short pulses, process the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula until the dough sticks together. If the dough does not come together, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.

3. Divide the dough into two even pieces and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let the chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out and fitting it into a pie plate.

To Make Ahead:

 The dough can be refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Let the frozen dough thaw on the countertop until malleable before rolling.

Trader Joes Dried Blueberries

Make Ahead Blueberry Pie Filled


French-Style Pot Roast with Carrots, Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

French Pot Roast Buttered Noodles 1  

French-Style Pot Roast with Carrots, Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

Sometimes I forget how much I like a good pot roast. Perfect for a Sunday dinner especially in the fall and winter months. This dish is somewhere between a beef stew and a Boeuf Bourguignon and is best served with potatoes or buttered noodles. 

Download French-Style Pot Roast with Carrots, Mushrooms and Pearl Onions recipe

1 boneless beef chuck (4 to 5 pounds), pulled apart into 2 pieces and fat trimmed

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 bottle red wine (750 ml), medium-bodied (like Côtes du Rhône)

10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

Ground black pepper

4 ounces bacon, preferably thick cut, cut into 1/4-inch pieces crosswise

1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)

3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups frozen pearl onions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons sugar

10 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, sliced into thirds

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


1.  Pull the roast apart at the natural seam and trim away large knobs of fat from each half. Season meat with kosher salt, place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Using kitchen twine, tie parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves into bundle; set aside.

3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Tie three pieces of kitchen twine around each piece of meat to keep it from falling apart.

4. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and reserve.

5. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat; return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and heat until fat begins to smoke. Add beef to pot and brown well on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate and set aside.

6. Reduce heat to medium-low; add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and reserved bacon; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook until incorporated, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.

7. Stir in the broths and tied and herb bundle, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot; increase heat to high and bring liquid to simmer, then place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Set pot in oven and cook for 2 hours, using tongs to turn beef halfway through. Stir in the carrots and continue to cook in the oven, covered, until the meat is very tender and a dinner fork slips easily in and out of meat 1 – 1 ½ hours longer. 

8. While meat cooks, bring pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until onions are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until all liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and glazed, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

9. Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil to keep warm. Allow braising liquid to settle about 5 minutes; then, using wide, shallow spoon, skim fat off surface. Remove herb bundle and bring sauce to a strong simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat and cook until thickened and reduced to about 3 cups, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

10. Remove kitchen twine from meat and discard. Using carving knife, cut meat against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide meat among warmed bowls or transfer to platter; arrange carrots and onion mixture around meat, pour sauce on top, and sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.