Pumpkin Cake Cheesecake

Cinnamony pumpkin cake. Creamy, cool cheesecake. Individually, delicious. Together? Ooooh mama. In my book, this is the ultimate in fall desserts. Sure, it’s a bit time consuming. However if you’re preparing for a big holiday meal (helloooo, Thanksgiving!), this is something you can make days in advance and simply freeze or refrigerate until needed. A huge win!

Ingredients:
For the cheesecake:
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour
3 large eggs

For the pumpkin cake:
1 cup flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup pumpkin (canned or fresh), blotted

For the icing:
4 oz (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
2 tbsps unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1-2 tbsps milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust rack to lower third of the oven, if possible. Wrap the bottom of your 9 inch springform pan with foil and spray the inside lightly with cooking spray.
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To start, we’ll make the cheesecake portion. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and well blended. Add yogurt (you can also use sour cream if you prefer), vanilla, and flour to the mixture. Add eggs one at a time, just until incorporated. I usually turn off my mixer and give it a few spins with my spatula before the last egg is fully blended to avoid over mixing. Set aside.
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Grab 2 bowls for the cake- 1 medium and 1 large. In the large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. In the medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and blotted dry pumpkin (it’ll still be pretty moist, but this will help the cake texture from being too mushy).
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Add the wet ingredients to the dry…
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And mix together until no dry streaks remain. Spread a little over a cup of cake mix on the bottom of your prepared pan.
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Then plop about half of the cheesecake mix on top. The more random the better 😉 I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup.
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Repeat with remaining cake batter and cheesecake.
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Place your pan in a roasting pan/braiser/anything it’ll fit into.
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Add 1/2-1 inch of water to the roasting pan.
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Bake for about 65 minutes or until just set. It may still be a bit wobbly in the center… That’s ok! Turn off oven and crack the oven door slightly. Let cheesecake rest for about 1 hour… Being baked is hard work, it’s tired!

Forgive me. I’m a goober.

After you’ve rested your cheesecake, allow to cool to room temperature. Then wrap the top in Saran Wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. After this agonizing wait, run a knife along the edge of the cheesecake and the pan.
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And remove the rim. Beautiful!
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Now whip up your frosting! Really you can make the frosting a day or two before you intend to use it. Just keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Anywho! Beat your butter and cream cheese together until well blended. With mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar, then add vanilla and salt. Increase speed and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk depending on how thick you want your icing to be. Spread across the top of your cheesecake and attempt not to eat it by the spoonful.
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Enjoy with family, friends, and a hot cup of coffee. What a great way to keep cozy and welcome the holidays!
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*Note: this cheesecake can be made and frozen (unfrosted) for 2 months before use. Simply thaw 24 hours prior to serving.*

Recipe adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Black Bean and Chorizo Tortas with Tomatillo Salsa

So if you’re thinking this sounds super complicated and not an ideal candidate for a quick, weeknight meal… Get ready to have your mind BLOWN. You can easily get these amazing little sammies from your pan to table in 20 minutes as there is practically no prep and very few ingredients. You can fancy this up by making your own tomatillo salsa of course, by in the name of keeping this quick and easy we used bottled. Still super delicious and a meal we’ll be recreating soon!
Ingredients:
1/2 lb chorizo, casing removed
1-3 tbsps olive oil
2 15 oz cans black beans, with juices
Salt
For finishing:
Tomatillo salsa
Queso fresco, sliced
4 6-inch rolls, sliced and toasted

Directions:
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chorizo to skillet, breaking up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
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Cookout throughout, then add olive oil to the pan (more if your chorizo didn’t render much fat). Add black beans to the pan and bring to a simmer.
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As the mixture is cooking, mash the beans into a paste- use a potato masher, a couple of forks, the back of a spoon, whatever you’ve got handy. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture reaches a mashed-potatoey (it’s a word… Now) consistency. Taste and season with salt as needed.
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Lay slices of cheese on your bread/rolls (we actually used a sliced loaf of Jimmy John’s bread – highly recommend this!) and spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the cheese. Top with salsa and serve. These were yummy with some sliced avocado on top as well, but I failed to get a photo of one with avocado.

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See, how easy was that?! I hope these find their way onto your menu soon. 😊

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

Have you guys figured out that I really, really like meals I can make in advance? One of my favorite ways to spend a day, usually Sunday, is in the kitchen preparing a meal or two for the week ahead. With the weather getting cooler, of course we tend to gravitate to comfort foods… You know, the hearty, stick-your-ribs, not necessarily good for you stuff. This meal, while full of cheese, also packs a nice veggie punch with spinach and tomato sauce. You could easily add extra veggies or whatever you want. Another theme of mine- customizable meals. Another one of those meals that would be great to bring to a sick friend, a friend who’s just had a baby, etc.
Ingredients:
Makes 2 casseroles
For the pasta and filling:
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 oz (~1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
To finish (per casserole):
3 cups marinara sauce, divided
1 oz (~ 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and slip the lasagna noodles into the water, spreading them out into as even a layer as possible. Obviously mine overlapped a bit! Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating with the tip of a knife to prevent sticking.
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Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer on clean dish towels or a baking rack.
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In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, grated/shredded cheeses, spinach, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.
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Spread about ¼ cup of the mixture over the bottom three-quarters of each noodle. Roll the noodles up around the filling.
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At this point the filled noodles can be frozen for later use by placing seam-side down on a baking sheet and putting in the freezer until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer to Tupperware or ziplock bag until ready to use.
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To finish and serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of an 8X8 inch baking dish. It might be a tight squeeze but it’ll work! Arrange 6 of the filled manicotti over the sauce. Pour 1 cup of sauce over the top, cover with foil, and bake about 30-35 minutes. Remove the foil, top with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle with the cheese.

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Continue to bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve! If baking from frozen, simply add a few extra minutes to the initial baking time.
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Recipe from Annie’s Eats.

Chicken Taquitos

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a busy/long/exceptionally crabby toddler day, the last thing I want to do is spend a ton of time in the kitchen preparing dinner. I also don’t always want to rely on Jimmy John’s or one of the many pizza options that deliver to our area. Enter these lovely little nommers- creamy, tasty chicken filling in a crispy tortilla roll-up. Smother ’em, eat ’em plain… Whatever floats your boat. The filling is also super customizable, but this basic recipe is also excellent as is. I made and froze several containers of these in the weeks pre-Jack and let me tell you, it was nice to have something quick to just throw in the oven and not feel like we were eating junk. We still love our chicken taquitos and I bet you will too!

Ingredients:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup salsa
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1-2 green onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheese (pepper Jack, Mexican blend, whatever you have on hand)
10-12 6-inch flour tortillas
Cooking spray
Sea salt

Directions:
If making now, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop up your cilantro and green onion.
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Now I can’t remember if I’ve shared this delightful little tip with you before, but save yourself some time shredding your chicken by tossing your cooked chicken breasts (still steaming hot) into your stand mixer. Turn on high for a few seconds and voila! Perfectly shredded chicken.
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But I digress. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, spices, cilantro, green onions, chicken and shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
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Nuke your tortillas for 20-30 seconds, or just long enough to make them soft and pliable. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the middle of the tortilla.
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Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Spoon, roll, repeat. If you run out of tortillas before filling, it works nicely as a dip too. 😉 Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt.
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At this point, you can freeze or bake. To freeze, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill the taquitos for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. You can bake these straight from the freezer when ready- simply add a few minutes to the original bake time.
To bake now, bake for 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown and filling is warm. Ours got a bit crispy this go-round 😕 but they were still delicious! We smothered ours in leftover green chili but have also used cheese, beans, sour cream, salsa… The possibilities are endless.
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We’ve also simply eaten them as is, and they’re a great finger food for little ones. Such an awesome make-ahead recipe!

Recipe slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

I have a serious addiction to all things Starbucks, and the ever-popular pumpkin spice latte is no exception. However, keeping a pre-work coffee habit just isn’t budget friendly, especially with a new car payment! Luckily this syrup along with some steamed milk makes home-brewed taste just like (if not better than!) the ubiquitous chain’s beverages.

Ingredients:
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp pumpkin puree

Directions:
Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, cooking until sugar is completely dissolved.
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Whisk in spices and pumpkin purée to the saucepan…
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And cook for about 5 minutes. Your kitchen will smell like fall… Delicious, amazing fall. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Strain into container of your choosing. I was ghetto-fab and put some cheesecloth in a funnel for this step… Whatever works, right?
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Store in refrigerator. Add 1-2 tablespoons to your morning cuppa for an awesome pumpkiny start to your day!
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*To make an at-home PSL: add 1-2 tablespoons syrup to 2 oz hot coffee or espresso. Add 6 oz steamed milk and stir. Top with whipped cream and caramel sauce if you have it on hand. Double quantities for a larger cup!

Recipe from Annie’s Eats.

Kale and Sunflower Seed Pesto

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I know, I know… Kale is one of those things that hipsters/juicers/healthy people are all into right now. You either love it or hate it. My own husband isn’t a fan- he says he feels like he’s eating the garnish that came on the plates back in our good ol’ Ponderosa days. But guys, I dig it. It’s super good for you and there are about a million things you can do with it. This recipe is one of my favorites, plus it makes a TON, so you can freeze some and eat some now. We know I like a good make-ahead! There’s a sneaky spicy kick to it thanks to some red pepper flakes, and it’s a nice way to change up your usual basil pesto as well if you’re tiring of that… But who tires of pesto, really?

Ingredients:
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
2 whole cloves garlic
2 cups packed chopped kale leaves
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
½ – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb. pasta (I used linguine)

Directions:
To start, lightly toast your sunflower seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat. Just a few minutes til they’re good and fragrant. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
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Return the pan to the burner. Place the garlic cloves in the pan and toast until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the kale, basil, sunflower seeds, toasted garlic, Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
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Pulse until finely ground, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube until incorporated.
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Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *Can be stored refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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In this case, I tossed the pesto together with some shredded chicken and my pasta.
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Delish! Healthy! Kid approved! I mean really. Jack goes ape for this stuff. Try it next time you want a quick, comforting pasta dish.
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Recipe from Annie’s Eats.