Sunday, October 25, 2015

Caramel Brownie Cheesecake

Cheesecake is my favorite dessert!  Over a decade ago, my MIL got this recipe from a coffee shop in Birmingham, AL and it is the best cheesecake ever!  It takes a little while to make but is so worth the effort.  If you can refrigerate it overnight, it tastes better the next day.

wafer and butter crust

caramel and milk

crumbled brownies

cream cheese mixture

after baking

1 3/4 cups vanilla wafers, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
11 oz. package caramel ready to melt balls (I just discovered these)
5 oz. can evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups brownies, crumbled (easiest to crumble when hot)
3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
8 oz. sour cream
2 tsp vanilla

whipped cream, caramel topping (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Combine wafers and butter.  Firmly press on bottom AND SIDES of greased (with Crisco and flour) 9 inch springform pan.  Bake for 5 min.  Let cool on wire rack.
3.  Combine caramels and evaporated milk in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, until caramel melts.
4.  Pour caramel mixture over crust.
5.  Sprinkle crumbled brownies over caramel. (The brownies need to be warm for best results)
6.  Beat cream cheese at medium speed for 2 min. or until fluffy.
7.  Gradually add brown sugar, mixing well.
8.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just until blended.
9.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla.
10.  Pour batter over brownies.
11.  Bake for 1 hour.
12.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temp. on a wire rack.
13.  Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove sides of pan.  Garnish.


Strawberry Spinach Salad with Homemade Dressing

I found this recipe on Pinterest a couple of years ago thinking it would be a good healthy side dish, but doubting that my children would be thrilled about a salad made up of spinach leaves.  We now have this salad at least once a month, usually with grilled chicken and sweet potatoes.  Every time I serve it, my family reminds me it is one of their favorite meals.  The homemade dressing really makes it great!

baby spinach
sliced strawberries
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced
3 green onions, white and green parts
almonds, raw and chopped

Mix all ingredients, toss with dressing

Dressing Ingredients:
4 Tbsp vanilla Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp basil
2 Tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

Stir ingredients together and toss with salad

*recipe adapted from Cafe Johnsonia

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cinnamon French Toast Sticks

Okay, so I'm obviously not a professional photographer or food blogger.  But the picture above gives you an idea of what we ate for breakfast and it tasted a lot better than it looks.  My kids really like the cinnamon french toast sticks you can buy frozen at Sam's, so I tried to make a homemade version and they were delicious.  I usually don't like french toast, but this recipe is very tasty!

8 slices thick-cut Texas toast
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1.  Cut each slice of bread into four sticks.
2.  In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla.
3.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter in saute pan over medium heat.
4.  Dip each piece of bread in egg mixture, turning to coat on all sides.
5.  Place coated sticks in a single layer in saute pan and cook each side until golden brown.
-In order to not crowd pan, I cooked 3 sets of sticks adding 1 Tbsp of butter to pan before cooking each set.

Livi took a picture of me in action. :)

This recipe was taken from Just A Taste.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

One Thing Is Necessary

While posting recipes this afternoon, I came across this post I wrote back in November, but failed to ever publish because I got distracted by kids coming home from their homeschool tutorial.  It was time to feed everyone lunch and get the baby up from her nap, and a myriad of other duties.  After reading this today, I find it comical that I was "distracted" and not able to publish it at the moment.  At least I had finished my devotion time that day, and God has been bringing me back to this verse over and over the last couple of months...

Most Christian women are familiar with the story of Mary of Bethany and her sister Martha found in Luke 10.  There are even books and Bible studies written on this one story, such as Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, which I went through with a group of girls when I was in college.  My husband sometimes jokingly says to me, "Martha, Martha,"  and I understand him to be saying "you are worried about so many things."  (Luke 10:41) This is his loving way of reminding me not to worry or be anxious about anything.  

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 4:6-7

 As a pastor's wife and SAHM of little ones, I have many opportunities to serve others.  I love my job and wouldn't want to be doing anything else with my life right now.  But at the same time I get tired and frustrated and want to throw myself pity parties sometimes when I feel like all I do is serve, serve, serve.

"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." -Matthew 20:28

I want to be like Jesus, so I often remind myself of this verse in Matthew and ask God to give me a willing servant's heart toward my family and others.  As I was reading Satisfy My Thirsty Soul this morning, Linda Dillow quoted the "one thing is necessary" passage from Luke 10:42.  I was meditating on this verse and opened my Bible to read this story again and some aspects of it hit me in a new way.  In verse 38, Martha welcomed Jesus into her house.  I love welcoming people into my home and having Jesus as a guest would be pretty great!  Martha's sister Mary was "sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to his teaching." (Luke 10:39)  

"But Martha was distracted with much serving." -Luke 10:40

Serving is being like Jesus, but it can also be a distraction!  Distraction from what?  "Sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to his teaching."  Martha was being hospitable and serving Jesus and was frustrated that her sister was not helping her.  So, she went up to Jesus and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me."  In the recent past I have prayed a prayer very similar to this one.  Do you ever feel that you have been left to "serve alone?"  Do you ever feel like saying, "A little help, please."  So, how did the Lord answer her?  The same way I heard him answer me this morning as I read verse 41.  "Martha, Martha, (insert your name here) you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her."

As I make my plans for the day, for this holiday season, I need to be reminded...


A LOT of things are good and right to do, but what is really necessary?  Make this a priority.  The longer I live, I realize that "many things"  (in this season of my life - laundry, dishes, and messes) will always be there.  Instead of being distracted by serving, I want to hear Jesus say, "Melisa has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her."

Chicken, Quinoa, and Kale Soup

In an effort to try to eat healthier, I'm trying some new recipes with healthy ingredients that I think my family will enjoy.  This one proved to be delicious and healthy, which I was happy about since I am trying to please my husband (who will eat anything, but lets me know if he likes it or not) and three picky kids (who we make eat whatever I cook, even if they say they don't like it).  It's always a win when the ingredients are healthy and everyone enjoys the dish.  The recipe was found on Pinterest, of course, and is adapted from the Cooking Classy blog.  

5-6 frozen raw chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup dry quinoa
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
7 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste
15.5 oz. can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups packed Kale, roughly chopped without ribs
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice
shredded Parmesan cheese, for topping

1.  Place chicken in 6 quart crock pot.
2.  Add onions, celery, and garlic, then drizzle with olive oil.
3.  Add quinoa, thyme, rosemary, and chicken broth.
4.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
6.  Remove chicken, let rest 10 minutes, cut into bite size pieces and return to soup.
7.  While chicken is resting, add in beans, kale, parsley, and lemon juice, then cover and continue to cook on high heat for another 15 minutes until Kale is done.
8.  Serve warm topped with Parmesan cheese.

Serve with this Homemade Bread recipe.

Sausage and Egg Burritos

Okay, so the picture above is not really going to sell you on these, but they taste really good, are easy to make, and are crowd-pleasers.  Weston begs to have these all the time!  I found this recipe on the Old El Paso website after searching for breakfast burritos.  Back before I had three little ones, I made breakfast for Sunday mornings on Saturday nights and put an individualized portion for my husband in a separate container for him to access easily.  As a pastor, he leaves much earlier than the kids and I and I want him to be well nourished while preaching, show him that I love him in a practical way, and have something quiet for him to eat so that the kids don't wake up at the crack of dawn. ;)  For the last year I have dropped the ball, and Grant has gone to McDonald's every Sunday morning on his way to church to get two breakfast burritos.  They are on the dollar menu and he usually leaves around 5:00am on Sunday mornings, so this is not a bad deal, but I thought since he likes them so much, why not try to find a recipe for some that can be frozen so that he can just grab them on his way out the door.  I have made this recipe a couple of times now, and everyone in my house enjoys them, so they are going on the list of regulars.

1 lb. sausage
2 green onions
8 eggs
1 Tbsp butter
1 package flour tortillas (8 tortillas; 8 inch)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salsa and sour cream for topping

1. Brown sausage in skillet; drain.  Stir in green onions and set aside.
2.  In large bowl, beat eggs until well blended.
3.  Melt butter in skillet, cook eggs until scrambled; Add sausage and onions, mix gently.
4.  Heat tortillas according to directions on package; Spoon sausage mixture evenly onto tortillas topping each with 2 Tbsp cheese before rolling up to make burritos.
5.  Eat immediately; store in fridge or freezer for later.