Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes

Saturday, January 29, 2011

These pretty little cheesecakes are a perfect solution for entertaining. The recipe makes enough for a crowd and the convenience of a cupcake liner means everyone can help themselves to as many as they would like. Believe me they will be going back for seconds. The tart raspberry swirled through the cheesecake batter breaks up the rich sweetness of cheesecake and the pretty raspberry and mint leaf garnish add an elegant flare.

Serves: 32 cupcakes (just short of three dozen)
Start-to-Finish: 5 1/2 hours (1 hour prep and cook + 4 1/2 hours of cooling and refrigeration. This isn't something you just throw together last minute; it requires some forethought.)

Recipe By: Original recipe by Martha Stewart but I made some modifications of my own


For the crust:
2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
4 1/2 tbsp. sugar

For the topping:
6 oz. fresh raspberries (Equals one small pkg of raspberries, so if you want any raspberries to garnish with you either have to buy more or keep some out of the blender.)
2 tbsp. sugar

For the filling:
4 pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature


1. Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.
2. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
3. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar.
4. Stir together with a fork until well blended and all the dry ingredients are moistened.
5. Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. (One packed tablespoon of mixture for each cupcake. Don't press too hard or it will be a solid mass you can't bite through at bottom of your cheesecake.)
6. Bake until just set. (5 minutes.)
7. Transfer to a cooling rack.
8. Meanwhile, make the raspberry puree by combine the raspberries and sugar in a blender.
9. Process until smooth, then pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
10. To make the cheesecake batter, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy.
11. Mix in the salt and vanilla.
12. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
13. Assemble the cheesecakes by adding 1/8 cup of cheesecake batter, 1/2 tsp of raspberry puree, and another 1/8 cup of cheesecake batter. (You are creating a sandwich here.)
14. Dot another ½ teaspoon of the raspberry puree over all of that. (You dot on the final puree to make the swirling patterns easier and more even.)
15. Then use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to lightly swirl and create a marbled effect.
16. Bake until the filling is set, about 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
17. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. (They will look quite puffed initially but will return to normal quickly.)
18. Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
(step by step pictures from annies eats.net)

Chicken Avocado Casserole

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toasted almonds and creamy avocado with a rich gravy sauce and chicken. I served this dish over angel hair pasta. So GOOD!

Start to Finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Recipe By: Morton's Kosher Salt with modifications by Amber Brunson


3 TBSP butter, divided
1/2 TBSP olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/8 cup flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 dashes hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp dried basil
½ cup chopped almonds, toasted
1 or 2 avocados


1. Preheat over to 350° F.
2. Melt one TBSP of butter in large skillet.
3. Add olive oil and swirl together with the butter.
4. Add chicken and sauté until chicken pieces are browned and juices run clear. (Turn pieces while sautéing for nice even color.)
5. Place chicken breasts in 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
6. Melt remaining 2 TBSP butter until foamy.
7. Stir in flour, and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly.
8. Slowly add whipping cream, chicken broth, Kosher salt, black pepper, Parmesan cheese, hot pepper sauce (optional), and herbs.
9. Continue stirring and cooking until smooth and thickened.
10. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
11. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
12. Meanwhile, toast almonds.
13. Sprinkle almonds over chicken and sauce, bake an additional 5 minutes.
14. Peel and slice avocados lengthwise and place over chicken before serving.

Bean Soup

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This recipe makes the cut! It has everything I want in a food storage recipe. It is shelf stable but, if you have the means, you can spice it up with fresh vegetables and meat. It is delicious just the way it is and it is a nice hearty meal. For three days in a row I ate this soup for lunch with a buttered, rolled-up flour tortilla and I loved it. To dress up this soup with fresh veggies, dairy, and meats I think it would be great with shredded chicken, tortilla chip noodles, cheese, and avocado. Garnish with some sour cream and cilantro and you have just turned "food-storage bean soup" into "every-day tortilla soup".

Serves: 4
Start-to-Finish: 6-8 hours (slow cooker recipe)
Recipe By: Amber Brunson


1/2 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dehydrated carrots
1/2 cup dehydrated onion
1/4 cup powdered milk (can substitute 1/4 cup sour cream if you're making it fresh)

1 cup salsa or taco sauce (I used mild but next time I would probably use medium because it takes a lot of heat to give the beans any flavor at all)
1/2 cup potato flakes
1 tsp salt


1. Rinse pinto beans and soak in water overnight.
2. Drain all the water, rinse beans thoroughly, and place in crock-pot.
3. Add dehydrated vegetables to crock-pot with beans.
4. Add fresh water enough to cover all the vegetables and beans.
5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the beans are fully cooked and soft.
6. Add the powdered milk, potato flakes, salsa, and salt.
7. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth.
8. Serve with warm tortillas.

New Recipes

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to food storage. This is in large part because I was recently called to serve on the Preparedness Committee in my church. The church I belong to stresses storing food and water in the event of an emergency; along with creating a plan for where your family will meet up, how they will contact each other, and what options B and C are in the unfortunate situation that a natural disaster, economic downturn, emergency, and even job loss impact your family. "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)
There are hundred of online resources and books about the subject but at some point you need to know enough to ask the right questions and how to process the information you find or it's just data overload. That is pretty much the situation I have been in up to this point (and, to be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure I've moved on from this stage). Nevertheless, I have decide to move forward with what I do know. And I know how to cook. So, I am starting to collect recipes of various dishes that incorporate food storage ingredients*. Not only is it cost effect to buy basic ingredients in bulk and make your own food but it is also healthier for your family to eat this way because there are less artificial flavorings, preservatives, and additives in your food. Unfortunately, some of the meals you can make with these ingredients don't taste very good. Let's be honest, there is surviving and then there is surviving. If I am going to start up a food storage program in the event of an emergency I want it to be surviving in the latter sense of the word. In the eyes of my 3-year-old, Wonder Bread with its light, fluffy texture wins hands down in a comparison to hand-ground, whole wheat bread. You could use that loaf as a door stop or a fuel alternative not a PB&J sandwich. I am looking for shelf stable** recipes that my family will actually enjoy eating. And, I am looking for alternate ways to make grocery items from home.
I don't own any fancy gadgets or equipment like a water-bath canner, a dehydrator, a wheat grinder, or a food saver. In fact, I don't even own a traditional blender. The only food shelving I have is the pantry that came with the house. I am at the begining and going from there. I will be incorporating my adventures into new food storage recipes and my thoughts on these foods in my blog. Enjoy the crazy ride.

*Food storage ingredients: Foods such as dried beans, whole grains, rice, etc... these are ingredients that can be air-tight sealed, stored at room temperature, and maintain nutritional value for 5, 10, sometimes 30, years.
**Shelf stable recipes: Recipes that only require pantry items to make the dish, thus the meal can be stored without electricity and made without perishable ingredients. I really don't like when someone lists a recipe as "food storage" simply because it includes rice in the ingredient list but the main items you need are chicken breast and two fresh pears. I can't raise chickens in my backyard and I wouldn't know how to prepare a live chicken even if I did so that is not going to work for me. I want my recipes to be two-fold: a meal I enjoy eating just the way it is, with only pantry ingredients, AND a dish that can be spiced up with fresh produce or meats if the option is viable.

Brownie Pecan Pie

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This pie recipe came with Mike when we got married.  I brought the enchiladas and he brought the pies. Flaky crust, brownie filling, and a toasted pecan top this pie is good enough to eat all by yourself.  So be careful when you make it because if you don't have a lot of people around to help you eat it you are going to find yourself drawn to its irresistible fudginess when you wake up, after jogging, between meals, and around 2:00am. (Yes, I am speaking from experience.)

Serves: 8 slices
Start-to-Finish: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Recipe By: Janet Brunson


2 squares bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup butter
¾ cup dark Karo syrup
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup pecan halves
1 pie crust-unbaked


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Using a double boiler, melt chocolate squares with butter.
3. Take mixture off the heat.
4. Mix in Karo syrup.
5. Mix in salt, vanilla, sugar, and eggs. (when mixing in eggs be careful not to cook them by adding them to the mixture when it is too hot. It is always a good idea to add a little bit of the hot mixture gradually to the eggs to slowly raise the temperature before adding the eggs to the hot mixture.)
6. Put one uncooked pie shell in the bottom of a pie pan.
7. Lay the pecans in the bottom of the pie shell in a pretty pattern. (make sure the pecans are facing up.)
8. Pour mixture of ingredients carefully over pecans. The pecans will slowly float to top. (If you pour too hard or quickly you will disrupt the pretty patterns you made.)
9. If any pecans flipped over turn them back and fill in with other pecans where needed. Pecans should not overlap.
10. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes then turn oven down and continue to bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. (Chocolate will swell up and may crack around edges but when it cools it moves back down and you can't see the cracks. Make sure pie is not wiggly in the center when you take it out of the oven.)
11. Serve with whipped cream.

Spinach, Artichoke, and Green Chili Dip

Monday, January 17, 2011

I am sure you have all tried this dish at some point in your life. It is one of my favorite dips with bruscetta or chips so I usually order it when it is my turn to pick an appetizer. I have tried some incredible versions of this dip at several restaurants but this recipe is my favorite yet. Which is surprising considering where I tasted it first ... HEB.  Yep, I got this decedent mouthful at a tasting stand in my local grocery store. I grabbed the sample and kept walking because the boys were trying to grab as many little plastic cups from the stand as possible. I took one bite, stopped, and went back to ask the woman how to make it.  She handed me a little recipe card and off I went to buy everything right then. That may not seem like a big deal but for me it means backtracking down four different aisles to get the ingredients I need while my boys fight with their seat belts and each other as I race the clock to get out of the store before my patience runs out. It is rich and salty with a deep, complex flavor from the artichoke tapenade.

Serves: 8
Start-to-Finish: 30 minutes
Recipe By: HEB Showtime Recipes


1 (10-oz) jar artichoke tapenade (can substitute artichoke hearts, finely chopped)
6 - 8 oz fresh spinach (can substitute frozen chopped spinach)
1 (16-oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 small can chopped green chilies
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp chopped garlic in oil, drained
1 cup shredded monterey jack or pepper jack cheese


1. For fresh spinach, chop and set aside. For frozen spinach, let thaw; then squeeze to remove excess moisture.
2. Heat oven to 375°F.
3. Coat a baking dish or pie pan with non-stick spray.
4. In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese, green chilies, mayonnaise, and garlic.
5. Stir in artichoke tapendade, spinach, and cheese.
6. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
8. Serve with chips.

Adventures in Cake

Thursday, January 13, 2011

These pictures aren't the best but at least I got pictures. I was in such a hurry to get it out the door I completely forgot my camera so these were taken with Mike's phone. I made this cake to serve at a friend's son's baptism. The cake is magnificent! Four cake layers with chocolate pudding and strawberry cream filling all topped with a fluffy chocolate whipped topping. I could eat it everyday and lick the plate clean. It is not overpoweringly sweet however, it has a rich chocolate flavor. The cake is extremely moist and the strawberry filling adds a light freshness. Be forewarned, it is a beast to make so if you plan on undertaking don't do it lightly.

Serves: 16 servings
Start to Finish: 4 hours
Recipe By: Amber Brunson


Chocolate Syrup:
3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups hot water
dash of salt
2 TBSP vanilla extract

Cake Batter:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate syrup (ingredients above)
1/2 cup water

Chocolate Filling:
1/3 cup flour
3 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups 2% milk
1 cup chocolate syrup (ingredients above)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 TBSP butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 strawberries

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chocolate syrup (ingredients above)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


Chocolate Syrup:
1. Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.
2. Add water, and mix until smooth.
3. Bring this mixture to a boil. (Stirring constantly or it will burn.)
4. Allow it to boil for three minutes. (Stirring constantly or it will burn.)
5. Remove from heat, when it cools to room temperature, add the vanilla.

Cake Batter:
6. Preheat oven to 350°.
7. Grease and floured two 9-in. round baking pans.
8. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
9. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
10. Stir in vanilla.
11. Combine dry ingredients
12. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with syrup and water.
13. Beat just until combined.
14. Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans.
15. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
16. Cool for 10 minutes in pans then remove from pans and cool on wire racks. (The second time I made this recipe I left the cakes in the pans to cool completely and them I couldn't get them back out of the pans without crumbling them up. I had to remake them. Lesson learned... don't let them cool completely in the pans.)

Chocolate Filling:
17. In a small saucepan, combine the flour, sugar and salt.
18. Stir in milk and syrup until smooth.
19. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
20. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
21. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
22. When cooled sufficiently, stir a small amount of mixture into the egg.
23. Return all to the pan, stirring constantly.
24. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.
25. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cool to room temperature, stirring often.

Strawberry Filling:
26. Chop strawberries in blender until they are thick and liquidy.
27. Set strawberries aside.
28. Beat heavy whipping cream and vanilla until mixture starts to thicken.
29. Mix in sugar.
30. Fold in strawberries.

Chocolate Frosting:
31. In a bowl, beat frosting ingredients until stiff peaks form.

Cake Assembly:
32. Cut each cake in half horizontally.
33. Place one bottom layer on a serving plate; spread with half of the chocolate filling.
34. Place next cake layer on top and spread with the strawberry filling
35. Place next layer of cake on top and spread with remaining half of the chocolate filling.
36. Top with last cake layer cake.
37. Spread or pipe chocolate frosting over top and sides of cake.
38. Decorate and garnish cake. (Store in refrigerator until time to serve or the whipped frosting will melt.)


Sunday, January 9, 2011

When you make new recipes a lot you need to have a system in place for what to do when the recipes is just plain awful. Mike is willing to try anything I cook, but we have a long standing backup plan of Papa John's Pizza for dishes that aren't worth finishing. Lately, I feel like I have had a lot of flops. I usually try to cook two new recipes a week and, other than desserts, everything I have tried in the last month has been pretty terrible.

Worst Recipe for the Month: Apple Onion Chicken

Parmesan cheese on spaghetti noodles and marinara sauce: Good.
Parmesan cheese on baked chicken and onions: Bad
It smelled like throw-up. After getting home from the pizzaria I had to take the trash out to the garage because the smell was stinking up the whole house.

Second Worst Recipe: Almond Crusted Turkey in Plum Sauce

Do NOT like hoisin sauce. The turkey is marinated in a hoisin sauce mixture, coated in an almond-sesame seed crust, baked and served with plum sauce. I wished I had washed the hoisin sauce off the chicken before coating it because the flavor and smell were ubber bad. I had to de-bone and skin a turkey breast for this recipe...sooo not worth it.

Third Worst Recipe: Flank Steak Vinegarette Salad

Way too much oil and vinegar in this salad; it was like slimy lettuce soup.  The potatoes were soggy, which is weird in salad. The sugar peas made no sense in the dish.  It was like someone made up a recipe by combining everything from their fridge, it had no cohesive flavor profile or texture. To add insult to injury, it took a really long time to make.