Mini Banana Pudding Cheesecakes

Banana pudding made into cheesecake! Wow, these little bites are insanely good! I had chocolate graham crackers instead of vanilla wafers so I used them knowing I wouldn’t be disappointed. Either way you have a winner. A cream cheese banana filling with slices of banana added sit on top of a cookie crust and topped with a homemade whipped topping. Now try to only eat one! Enjoy!

Crust
1 C. vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (I used chocolate graham crackers)
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Banana Filling

12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sour cream
1/4 C. lightly mashed bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
Banana slices

Whipped Cream

3/4 C. heavy whipping cream, cold
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Crust

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add cupcake liners to a cupcake pan. Combine the vanilla wafer cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners (about 2 tablespoons per cup) and press into the bottoms. Bake the crust for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Filling and Topping

Reduce oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and flour until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sour cream and mashed bananas. Beat on low-speed until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and the first egg and beat slowly until mostly combined. Add the remaining egg and mix until well combined. Add a small amount of filling to each cheesecake cup, then add a couple of banana slices on top. Add additional filling on top of the banana slices, filling each up until mostly full.

Bake the cheesecakes for 18-20 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the door closed for another 5 minutes. Crack the oven door and allow cheesecakes to cool for 15-20 minutes, then put in the fridge to finish cooling. When cheesecakes are cooled, remove them from the pan.

To make the whipped cream, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Pipe a swirl of whipped cream on tip of each cheesecake and finish off with a banana slice and vanilla wafer. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cheesecakes are best when well covered for 2-3 days.

Peppadew Peppers Stuffed with Whipped Feta Cheese

I have fallen in love with peppadew peppers! I love the hint of heat with the sweetness of the pepper. There are so many delicious creamy fillings you can fill these little gems with. This one has just two ingredients, but the combination with the pepper just pops in your mouth. If your local grocery store has an olive bar, sometimes you can find peppadew peppers there and they will not be smashed in a jar and stand up better for presentation on your serving platters. Either way you and your guest will find these irresistible. Enjoy!


15 peppadew peppers
1 C. crumbled feta
4 oz. cream cheese
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

In the bottom of a food processor or blender combine feta and cream cheese. Process or blend until smooth, light and creamy. Season with pepper. Transfer filling to a ziplock bag. Snip the corner off of the bag and pipe filling into peppers.

Almond Poppy Seed Crackers

These low-carb crackers are simple and easy to prepare, and taste great by themselves or with any delicious topping you choose. They have become a staple in my kitchen. I have found if you are using a stone baking sheet you do not need to use the parchment paper while baking, because the crackers will not turn golden brown. Enjoy!


1-1/2 C. almond meal
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to middle position. Stir together almond meal, poppy seeds, coconut oil, salt and egg white until incorporated. Lay a 16-inch long piece of parchment paper on the counter. Pour dough onto parchment paper and cover with an additional piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling-pin, roll the dough to an 8×12-inch rectangle. Uncover and cut the dough into 2×4-inch crackers with a paring knife. Transfer parchment paper with cracker dough onto a baking sheet. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Cool to room temperature.

Raspberry Cream Brownies

This is an oldie but goodie that I had not made in a few years. Due to raspberries not being in season all year, these are great during the warmer months when you picnic or cookout more. A chocolate brownie swirled with a cream cheese batter that has fresh raspberries and topped with sliced almonds will delight your taste buds! Enjoy!


1 C. butter(2 sticks)
1 C. cocoa powder(I use cacao powder)
1 C. sugar
1 jar(10-oz.) all-fruit seedless
raspberry preserves(3/4 C.)
4 L. eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract or
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1-1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Swirl Topping
1 pkg.(8-oz) cream cheese
1/3 C. sugar
1 L. egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 C. raspberries
1/4 C. sliced almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray or butter a 13×9 glass baking pan.

Prepare brownie batter: In a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan, melt butter on medium-low. Whisk in cocoa and cook until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar and preserves. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until thoroughly blended.

In a small bowl, stir flour and baking soda; add to chocolate mixture, stirring just until blended. Pour batter into baking dish and smooth top.

Prepare swirl topping: With mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and extract until blended. Fold in raspberries.

Spoon large dollops of topping over brownie batter, spacing evenly. With knife, swirl topping into batter. Sprinkle with the almonds, if using.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Walnut Orzo Pilaf

Next time you prepare orzo, take it in a new direction with thyme, cranberries, pecans, and green onions. Thyme is not my favorite herb, so I reduce the amount I add, and I enjoy this dish. This is a quick and simple dish great for busy weeknights, or a dish you could serve to guests that will impress. Enjoy!

1/4 C. unsalted butter
1 C. diced red onion
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (about 3 tsp. dried)
1/2 tsp, kosher salt
1 C. uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 C. chopped dried cranberries
2 C. vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 C. chopped toasted pecans
1/4 C. chopped green onion

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, thyme, and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in orzo and cranberries; cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat tot low, cover, and cook until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Gently stir in pecans and green onion. Serve immediately.

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad

Want a quick but elegant and delicious side salad? Look no farther, this spinach salad only takes minutes to prepare. A simple bed of spinach with toasted almonds and dried cranberries tossed with an amazing dressing that completely makes this salad. This recipe is for a larger salad, but very easy only to prepare half. Enjoy!


Salad

16 oz. baby spinach
1 C. almonds, toasted
1 C. dried cranberries

Sesame Seed Dressing

1/4 C. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 C. olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds (optional)

For the dressing: In a bowl or jar whisk together all ingredients until mixture is well blended.

For the salad: Add spinach, almonds and cranberries to a salad bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Serve immediately after adding dressing.

Yields: about 8 servings

Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad

Israeli couscous looks like little pearls, and it’s made from semolina or wheat flour. It has a slightly chewy texture, similar to barley, and because it is toasted, it has a slightly savory flavor.

This dish makes getting dinner served quick and easy by grilling your veggies along with your chicken, steak, pork or fish, and only 12 minutes for your couscous to cook. A great accompaniment that is simple and easy for a busy weeknight or a relaxing weekend. Feel free to change-up the veggies to what you have on hand or to your families liking. Enjoy!


2 Tbsp. plus 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 C. Israeli couscous
3 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into planks
1 orange, red and yellow bell pepper, cored and quartered
2 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 C. crumbled feta
1/2 C. chopped fresh mint

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous and toast until golden brown. Add 1-1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Set aside.

Prepare a grill for medium heat. Toss the zucchini and peppers with the oil and some salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables, flipping occasionally, until just tender and lightly charred, about 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and when cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix the grilled vegetables together with the couscous.

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Toss the lemon vinaigrette, feta and mint with the couscous salad. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of Tiffani Thiessen

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

When I first made this bread I wasn’t expecting it to wow me, but I was wrong and it has become a popular snack in my house. A rich moist chocolate bread with a tender crumb. If you have never made a zucchini bread and are concerned with tasting a vegetable in your desert, don’t worry, you can’t even tell that it’s in there. In this bread you have chocolate from the cocoa powder and the chocolate chips and sweetness from maple syrup, yum. This can easily be a gluten-free snack by using a gluten-free flour. Enjoy!

2 C. grated zucchini
1-1/2 C. all-purpose four (or flour of choice)
1/2 C. almond meal
1/3 C. cocoa powder (try to find cacao powder)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. maple syrup
2 eggs
2/3 C. melted coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×5 loaf pan. Place grated zucchini in a colander, allow to sit for 5 minutes and squeeze excess water out. In a small saucepan on medium heat or by microwave, melt coconut oil and maple syrup together until combined. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together until combined, pour into the maple syrup mixture and vanilla and stir well. Add this mixture to the drained zucchini and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and chocolate chips and stir. Combine this flour mixture with the wet mixture and zucchini, stir until well combined.

Pour mixture into greased loaf pan and smooth out top. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before taking out to rest on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or wrap with foil and freeze for later To thaw, simply put in the fridge or set out on the counter top.

Serves: 10-12

Chicken Wing Seasoning

No matter what flavor of chicken wing you enjoy, or the level of heat, this seasoning is a good “foundation” to start with. I am one that has a problem with cooking meat and not seasoning it. The end result of your dish is much more flavorful and delicious when seasoned properly. This recipe makes enough for about 3 pounds of wings, so if you do not plan on cooking that many, it keeps great in an airtight container. Feel free to use on any other meat protein you’d like. Enjoy!


1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin

Combine all ingredients and keep in an airtight container.

Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake

This easy side dish of cauliflower, broccoli and a delicious cheese sauce can also become a main dish by adding either cooked chicken or ham. Pimientos and Dijon mustard are added to a traditional cheese sauce, and panko bread crumbs tossed in butter are sprinkled on top of the casserole. Since this is a large side dish, I simply cut it in half for my husband and I. Enjoy!


4 C. fresh cauliflower florets
4 C. fresh broccoli florets
1/4 C. salted butter
1/4 C. all-purpose flour (or flour of choice)
2 C. whole milk
1 (4-oz) jar diced pimientos, drained
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 (8-oz) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 C. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray and 11×7 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large Dutch oven, bring cauliflower and broccoli to boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well.

In Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk; cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in pimientos, salt, and mustard. Stir in cheese until melted. Stir in broccoli and cauliflower, and pour into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle onto casserole. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.