Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

At a gathering just before Thanksgiving, we were discussing everyone’s favorite pie.  My husband brought up his love of cheesecake and cannoli, rather than the typical turkey day offerings.  The table threw down a challenge that I readily accepted – create a cannoli cheesecake.

While a quick search on the internet brings up a few recipes, most include cream cheese. My goal was to create a ricotta cheese only cheesecake, to keep it as close to tasting like a cannoli as possible. I decided to start with a recipe from Buddy Valastro for a traditional ricotta cheesecake.  I modified the recipe to include chocolate chips and a crust made of pistachios and Biscoff cookies.

Using only ricotta results in a lighter texture, which was a nice change from a New York style cheesecake.  While the cake isn’t as sweet as cannoli filling, it was still a hit!

If a large cheesecake is too much of a commitment, you can always try my Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups instead – either will  make for happy guests.

Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

Butter or non-stick spray for greasing pan
24 Biscoff cookies (~1.5 cups once crushed)
½ cup shelled pistachios
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds whole-milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400ºF. Butter a 9-inch spring form panand place on a baking sheet.

Crush the cookies and the pistachios until fine, then mix with the melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

In a stand mixer fit with the paddle, beat the ricotta cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, and vanilla until very smooth.

Put the egg whites in a separate mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold the whites by thirds into the cheese mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour mixture into the pan over the crust and level it.

Put the cake in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350ºF. Bake until the cake has risen higher on the sides than in the middle and is set but jiggling in the center, 1 hour, 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open (using a prop such as a wine cork or large wooden clothes pin; Be careful not to let it fall into the oven). Let the cake cool completely in the oven for 1 hour, then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or overnight before removing the spring form sides. Slice and serve.


Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake Trifle

A few months back I saw a post for a pumpkin cheesecake trifle, which sounded like a delightful holiday dessert. It got my attention because (1) my husband LOVES cheesecake and (2) I love pumpkin pie. Since some family gatherings don’t always net a hoard of people, being able to combine two favorite desserts instead of having multiple dishes to tempt us seems great.

Pumpkin Trifle

 Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a variety of Thanksgiving trifles pop up, so I have been itching to put my spin on one. For my recipe I wanted to keep the pumpkin and cheesecake as two separate layers.  The pumpkin butter is quickly made with a bit of brown sugar, maple syrup, and a blend of spices.  The richly flavored butter is a perfect complement to the cheesecake layer. The fluffy cheesecake layer is part cream cheese part whipped cream, and flavored with maple extract.

The final piece to my trifle is soft, gingerbread cookies.  I used store bought cookies to keep prep time down, but feel free to make your own.  Layers of the gingerbread cookies, pumpkin butter, and cheesecake filling were sprinkled with a few toffee bits as a final touch.  Both my husband and I gave the trifle a thumbs up, I think we have our Thanksgiving dessert figured out!

Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake Trifle

1 15 ounce can pumpkin
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
one 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 cups whipping cream
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple extract
24 soft, gingerbread cookies*

toffee bits for garnish


Place the pumpkin, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and allspice in a medium sized pan.  Stir to mix, then place over low heat.  Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Whip the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and light. In a larger bowl whip the cream until it forms soft peaks then add the cream cheese and continue whipping on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and maple extract.

Break the cookies into small chunks. Add half to the bottom of a trifle bowl or two 7-inch diameter bowls, then spread half of the cheesecake filling on top. Next layer the pumpkin butter on top, followed by a layer of the remaining cookies.  End with a layer of the cheesecake, sprinkling on toffee bits if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I made mine gluten free using Enjoy Life cookies


Coconut Rice Cereal Treats

One of the ways I express my love for others is through the food I make. It doesn’t matter if the recipe is detailed or easy, but that I have cared enough to put consideration and love into it.

Take, for example, a simple rice cereal treat. These treats were a staple on camping and climbing trips for my husband and I, back when we were dating.  They packed well and we both loved them.

This weekend I took a traditional recipe and swapped out 1 cup of rice cereal for 1 cup of sweetened, shredded coconut. Since my hubby loves coconut, you can bet they were a well-received treat. The kids loved that I went the extra step and cut out hearts and drizzled a bit of colored candy melts and sprinkles on the top.

Complicated? No. But did it show that I cared? You bet.


Coconut Rice Cereal Treats

4 tablespoons butter
4 cups mini-marshmallows or 10 ounce bag of large marshmallows
5 cups crisped rice cereal
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut


Melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted and well-blended. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal and coconut and stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly and firmly in buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Cut into squares when cool and serve.


garam masala butternut squash

Garam Masala Roasted Butternut Squash

I love butternut, but I despise peeling and chopping it. That is why I joyfully bought pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash from Costco in a handy 2 pound tub. Prep time was instantly reduced by 85% and I could focus on how I wanted to flavor my dish, rather than how to safely peel the squash. I decided on a simply roasting the squash, while adding a ton of flavor with a dose of garam masala (which is a blend of spices that is typically found in Indian cuisine).

garam masala butternut

To roast the squash, I preheated the pans to set a sear on the underside of the butternut, which is a tip from Stuart O’Keeffe (as published in Optimum Wellness Summer 2017 edition). Once the squash was in the oven, I just had to wait for 40 minutes or so for it to get tender and a nice golden brown color. In addition to the amazing carmelization of the outside, the roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut squash.  In fact, you would swear you are eating a sweet potato casserole without all of the added sugar.

garam masala butternut

Garam Masala Roasted Butternut Squash

2 pounds (8 cups) peeled, seeded, and chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garam marsala
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 °F.  Place two roasting sheets (15 x 18) in oven to warm.  In a large bowl, toss together the squash, oil, and garam marsala, stirring to coat the squash evenly.  Carefully remove the roasting sheets from the oven and divide the squash between the two sheets, spreading out the squash on the sheets.  Place the sheets in the oven and roast the squash for 40-45 minutes or until beginning to brown on the outside. Transfer to a bowl and stir in pine nuts and oregano. Serve.


chanterelle sauce

Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce

This blog is brought to you by all of the leftover holiday meal ingredient in my refrigerator. I’m sure you know what I mean – that special item or spice you bought for the new recipe you just had to make for Christmas or New Year’s that is just staring back at you.  This Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce is a result of using the ingredient remainders from my holiday meals, with the intent to always use up what I have bought (and encourage you to do the same!).

I loosely followed Giada’s recipe for mushroom ragu, swapping out quite a few ingredients for what I had on hand. The main ingredient in my version – chanterelles – were procured in a large (1 pound!) container from Costco.  I had never seen such a large container of wild mushrooms and I was eager to cook with them. One of the other ingredients – cream sherry – was used in my Langostino Lobster Bisque. I used the sherry in replace of the Marsala in the original recipe.

 chanterelle sauce

This Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce also makes a great topping.  You can enjoy it over lamb with polenta, steak and mashed potatoes, or even pasta. I haven’t decided which one is my favorite!

chanterelle sauce

Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
¾ pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
¾ cup beef stock
¼ cup cream sherry
¼ cup half & half
½ teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes or until they begin to brown, then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute longer.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender and some liquid remains in the pan.  Add the stock and cream sherry and bring to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes longer, or until about half of the liquid remains.  Remove from the heat and stir in the half and half and salt. Serve.


Apple Butter and Raisin Bread Breakfast Casserole

Holiday mornings just beg for a breakfast casserole.  I have always enjoyed the classic cheddar & sausage casserole that my mom would make for special occasions. Last year at Christmas time, my sister and I tried a few new ones that got me thinking of creating my own.  I decided to build a breakfast casserole around apple butter since the spicy-sweet treat is hard not to love. 

I mixed in raisin bread and maple syrup for added sweetness and balanced it with a maple breakfast sausage and goat cheese. The result is a breakfast casserole that appeals to the young and old alike. I also love that I can (usually) get a few breakfast meals out of one dish!

Apple Butter Breakfast Casserole

Apple Butter & Raisin Bread Breakfast Casserole

1 pound maple flavored breakfast sausage
5-6 cups torn raisin bread
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup apple butter
3 large eggs
 2 cups ½ & ½
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 °F.

In a non-stick saute pan, brown and crumble the sausage; drain. Add the sausage to a large bowl, along with the raisin bread, goat cheese, and apple butter and mix to combine.  Pour the sausage mixture into a greased 3 quart (2.8L) casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture in the casserole dish.  Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes or until the eggs are set. Let cool a few minutes before serving.


asparagus casserole

Asparagus Casserole

Many Thanksgiving gatherings include a green bean casserole. There is no denying the creamy goodness of such a casserole, but I wanted to test out a version using asparagus (a favorite vegetable in my family) with a homemade sauce. 

Parboiled asparagus, get coated in a generous amount of a cream sauce, and mixed with sauuted onion, garlic, and cheese. Once baked and bubbly, it gets a dusting of crumbled bacon.  I’m sure this dish will be irresistible at our Holiday feast!

asparagus casserole

Asparagus Casserole

2 lbs asparagus
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
4 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups ½ and ½
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the asparagus and boil for 5minutes; drain and add asparagus to a greased 2.8 Liter casserole dish.

In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until translucent and begin to brown.  Add the garlic during the last minute of saute; remove from the heat.  Return the non-stick skillet to the stove and melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Add the flour to the butter and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the half & half, stirring until smooth and sauce begins to thicken.  Add the salt and pepper, then pour over the asparagus.  Add the onions, garlic, and Monterey jack cheese to the asparagus, and gently toss to evenly coat the asparagus with the sauce and cheese.

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the bacon and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.