Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Layered Mocha Cheesecake

This delectable dessert was adapted from Taste of Home (Feb/Mar 2008) issue. It was actually on the cover. It is truly a wonderful dessert - but I am writing the recipe with another topping, because the original, although tasty, was too hard to cut. Even though I do not like coffee, I still love this cheesecake. The coffee flavor is subtle and wonderfully partnered with chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.


1-1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Teddy Grahams, but you could use Oreos or chocolate graham crackers.)
1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2-1/2 T. instant coffee granules
1 T. boiling water
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t. vanilla extract

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up, or 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
1 ounce butter (2 T.)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine cookie crumbs and butter; press onto the bottomof a greased 9-in. springform pan. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, water and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one portion; pour over crust. Stir coffee mixture into the remaining batter; spoon over chocolate layer.

Place pan on a baking sheet (to catch spills). Bake for 45-55 minutes or until center is just set and top appearts dull. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to losen; cool 1 hour longer. Rerigerate overnight.

In a microwave safe bowl, bring butter and cream to a boil. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add vanilla and sugar. Pour over cheesecake and chill until set. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roasted Carrots

Simple, delicious, and healthy. What more could you ask for?

This recipe came from the Pioneer Woman's site......and makes a great side dish for a variety of meats. Mine turned out a wee bit burnt in a few places....only because when they were done, the meat being grilled wasn't, and I didn't want them to get cold, so I kept them in the turned-off oven. Without really checking on them. Oops. But they were caramelized and sweet and yummy anyways.

Served 5 adults and 3 young kids. So figure maybe 6 adults.


12 carrots, peeled or scrubbed
1/4 c. olive oil
thyme (her recipe called for fresh....I used dried)
kosher salt
chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.
Cut carrots if necessary to make them even in size. I ended up cutting most of them in half.
Lay them out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
Sprinkle with either a handful of fresh thyme or a few shakes of the dried.
Give a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Roast uncovered for 35-40 minutes. They'll be soft and wrinkly.
Throw a few chopped green onions on top if desired....not necessary, but nice.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quick Update

Life has been pretty crazy around here - Grant's parents have been visiting from California, and we've had a lot of shopping, baking, trying to nap, and general life activities going on. I have lots of new recipes that I'm working on posting, but for now, here's just a few photos of the family.

All my children - Whew! I have FOUR kids!

Ellia - 1 month old. 12/22/09

12-27-09 - Our first family photo with Ellia!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quips from the Kids

No new recipes floating around....we've been incredibly blessed to receive meals from friends for the past week, so I haven't been cooking at all! Now I'm back to the old grind....hahaha......just in time for Grant's parents to arrive in a couple of days.

Just thought I'd write down a couple of funny things the girls have said in the past week. Last Friday, I was driving with the kids to Grant's work to meet him for a potluck lunch (holiday party) and Ellia was screaming inconsolably. Marissa (4) sits next to her and was desperately trying to calm her with the pacifier, and it just wasn't working. She hollered over the noise,

"Mom, I think you need to milk the baby!!!"

The next story needs a little history explained.

During the last few months of my pregnancy, Annika (2) became obsessed with getting piggyback rides. Once she asked me for one, and I replied, "No, I can't. Mommy doesn't feel well." She nodded understandingly and stated, "Oh, baby in the belly. Ok, I get piggyback ride from Daddy!"
Well, a few days ago, we were sitting at the table finishing up dinner and she said,

"Hey Mommy. Baby in the belly?"

I replied, "Annika, you know I don't have a baby in my belly anymore. We have little Ellia right here."

"Ok, Mommy give me piggyback ride!"

Clever girl. I forgot to give her the piggyback ride, though. I really did forget.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

When I first decided to try out this cheesecake, about five years ago, Grant was very dubious.
"It's not chocolate", he complained. "It won't be any good."
After his first bite, he changed his mind.
This is now one of his favorite desserts.

Around that time, we were invited to some friends' home for dinner. I offered to bring dessert, and took this. Unbeknownst to me, we weren't the only people invited....there was another couple we had never met there. And the dinner wasn't just an ordinary dinner, it was an incredible six-course meal that lasted over two hours (in which I had my first experience eating rabbit and lamb, I might add). During dinner conversation, it was revealed that the husband of the other visiting couple had been a chef - in fancy schmancy restaurants - for over ten years in his past.

Geez. And he was going to be eating my cheesecake.

When dessert was served, I tried not to be nervous as everyone dug in.

Mr. Ex-Chef savored his first bite and proclaimed, "It doesn't get any better than this!"

I will never forget that.

Some of the measurements may seem a bit weird....that's because I increased the filling from the original recipe by 1/2 and some of the amounts were difficult to accurately measure.

I'll try to post my recipe for sugared pecans soon....they're awesome!


1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (use your blender!)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 heaping cup white sugar, divided
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
caramel ice-cream topping (optional)
sugared pecans (optional)
sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend heaping 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture.

Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.

Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with fresh whipped cream, caramel topping, and sugared pecans if desired.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

German Pancake

This came from SnoWhite and my family absolutely loved it! We normally have pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays, but today I just wasn't in the mood for them. This fit the bill for something easy and quick and super delicious! We will keep this around for sure.
It's really like a dense cake, not too sweet, but definitely not eggy like some German pancakes I've tried.


2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
1 T baking powder
1 T butter

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla.
Then, in another bowl, combine flours, wheat germ and baking powder.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and stir until well mixed.
Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes.
While the mix sits, preheat your oven to 400. Melt 1 T butter in a glass pie plate (or an 8x8 pan would work just fine) as the oven preheats.
When the butter is melted, and your 10 minute time is up, pour the batter into the hot pie plate.
Bake for ~15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the pancake bakes, prepare a fruity syrup. I used mixed berries to make a doubled version of this.

Serve warm, topped with warm fruit. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top, if desired.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ellia's Birth Story

Ellia's birth couldn't have been more perfect. There were so many answers to prayer regarding a variety of issues, and I am filled with gratitude to God for working everything out so wonderfully.

One of the things I was praying about was that she would come after my mom arrived on Nov. 18 to help out, five days before my due date. Obviously, I didn't want to have her before mom got here, as the plan was for mom to watch the older kids while we went to the hospital. Several friends had graciously offered to help out, but I knew it wouldn't be the same as having Nonny in the house with us, ready at any moment to send us off. So I heaved a huge sigh of relief the minute we picked Nonny up from the airport and Ellia was still waiting to come.

Secondly, I didn't want her to come until after the 20th, when some friends were having a baby shower for me. I had asked to have it after my mom got here, so she could meet my friends and be a part of that special time. Friday the 20th was the date chosen for the shower. Since the due date was the 23rd, we were really pushing it close. Add to that, I just had a feeling that Ellia was going to come early. I didn't know how early, but it was this hunch I had. So I was definitely nervous that I would go into labor and the shower would have to be cancelled.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Here are a few photos of the most wonderful baby shower I've ever was a precious time with very special friends.

The cake, made by the hostess and my dear friend, Ellen

Ellen and me

My mom and me

Group picture - aren't they beautiful ladies?

Another group picture, this time with my mom

Another thing I was concerned about was the drive to the birthing center. The only two ways for us to get there (one direct way, one extremely round-about way) both include a bridge tunnel across part of the Chesapeake Bay. There are certain times of the day, or when random accidents happen, when the tunnels are completely gummed up with traffic and a typically 25 minute drive can easily turn into a two to three hour trip. Not what you want when a baby is coming!

So basically, I decided that Ellia was going to come on the weekend, when at least the rush hour(s) traffic wouldn't be an issue. Yes, my friends laughed at me for being so specific, but I was not going to give up hope. Delivering on the weekend was also important to me because I didn't want to go into labor while Grant was at work. Since he works at a secure facility, he's not allowed to have his cell phone in the building, and he's often not at his desk due to meetings and such, and therefore he's frequently unreachable. He did give me a list of other people in the building I could call if necessary, but that certainly wasn't my first choice. So when Saturday the 21st came and went, I won't deny that I was a bit disappointed.

But Sunday morning I awoke around 4:30 with a contraction and I was very excited - so much so that I had a hard time trying to go back to sleep. I rested for an hour, with contractions coming every 8-10 minutes. Nothing painful, but real nonetheless. I finally got up and decided to shower and finish packing my bag.

I woke Grant at about 6:30 and told him today was the day. He practically bounded out of bed!

We finished all the packing and getting ready and told the kids that we would be having a baby today. They were ecstatic - but we had to remind them that they wouldn't get to see her until the next day when we came home. Corban stated, "Mom, even if it is a girl, I'm still really excited to meet her!"

The morning puttered on, with me questioning whether or not to call the midwife, wondering what I should expect. The contractions gradually got more intense, but not any closer together than 4-5 minutes. I did call the midwife, Tara, at around 10:30. She advised me to just wait at home and call her when I felt ready to come in, so she'd be waiting for me.

Later in the morning, I started experiencing a visual disturbance called an aura, which precedes a semi-migraine. I haven't had one in years - and for obvious reasons was a bit distressed to have such a possiblity while in labor. I went up to bed and rested for about 30 minutes, during which the contractions slowed down and eventually the aura went away. When I got up, the contractions picked up in intensity quite a bit and although they still weren't closer together, I decided it would be best to just head to the hospital. I called Tara to let her know we were coming, Grant finished cooking hot dogs for the kids for lunch, and we headed out.
The traffic was perfect on the way to the hospital, and it took us less than 25 minutes to get there. I only had four contractions in the car. We got checked in a little after 1:00 pm, and I was instructed to get in the lovely gown provided and either sit in a rocker or lie in the bed for 20 minutes with the monitor on - so they could check Ellia's heart rate during contractions. I opted for the chair.

When that was all done, Tara came in and checked my cervix - I was dilated to 4 cm, when she checked me it stretched to 5 cm, and she said she "could" stretch it to 6 cm, it was so loose. I was given the go-ahead to do whatever I wanted, except I couldn't use the tub yet. She didn't want me to get in too soon and slow labor down, plus it was too hot anyways. They started bringing in ice to try to cool it down after a little while.

The bed - where Ellia was delivered

The tub - with me in the background blogging!

Taking a break from typing to concentrate on relaxing through a contraction.

Around 3:30, Tara came and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did - and I was at 7 cm. I got approval to get in the tub. Right after getting in, I had one very strong contraction, then had a break for a few minutes. This photo was taken at 3:35 pm. Little did we know she'd be born 12 minutes later!

I went for 4-5 minutes without having a contraction and was actually concerned that getting in the tub was a bad decision because it was slowing labor, but the break was so nice, I didn't want to get out just yet. Then an incredibly powerful contraction hit that was accompanied by the irresistible urge to push. (One remarkable fact about this labor that I realized afterwards was that the transition phase - that time between usually 7 or 8 cm and fully dilated where you feel out of control, panicky, nauseous, and in general the worst during labor - it didn't happen. Yes, I obviously had the dilation progress, but I never experienced those feelings like I did in my other labors. Everything just happened too fast for that. )

Immediately I gasped to Grant the best I could what was happening, and he rushed to the door to summon Tara and Connie, my nurse. They were knee-deep in paperwork and apparently not expecting me to have progressed so quickly! They rushed in and asked if I wanted to deliver in the water.

I did not. My primary reason was that when you deliver in the water, they have to cut the cord quickly and get you out quickly, so they can assess any issues with bleeding and all that. My real desire was to leave the cord intact until it stopped pulsing, so I figured the standard bed delivery would be best.

As I climbed out of the tub, I had another contraction and began to be afraid I wouldn't MAKE it to the bed! They wrapped me in towels and got me over there somehow, and I firmly instructed Grant to get behind me (sitting so I could lean on him), and since I've delivered in that position before, he knew exactly what I meant and was there instantly. My first push on the bed resulted in my water breaking, which had meconium in it, so Tara hollered for the pediatrician to be called STAT. As she calmly explained to me that I would be able to hold the baby for a minute, but that she would have to be given to the doctor for examination pretty much right away, the pediatrician showed up with a fast it seemed like they were just waiting outside the door.

The contractions pretty much didn't stop at all and I was just pushing for a couple of minutes total, Tara telling me to push gently and breathe the whole time, when Ellia was just born. She had a lusty cry right away, a good indication of no problems, and was handed to me for just a few seconds before they whisked her over to examine her. She had an Apgar score of 9, so obviously there were no issues.

I had no tearing or related issues and felt the best I ever had after a delivery.

The next day - this is Nell, one of the other midwives - she's painting Ellia's feet pink to put her footprints on the wall in the birthing center.

Making her mark!

Ellia's feet are at the top of the second row from the left.

In her carseat, ready for the trip home, 24 hours after delivery.

We are so incredibly blessed to have this precious little girl in our family - and her name, which means "God has answered my prayers", is quite fitting. God really did answer all of our prayers and desires surrounding her birth and I couldn't have planned it better myself!
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