Monday, January 23, 2012

Cheesecake Brownies with Nicole

just before baking
First, let me just say that I am not a huge brownie lover! My family loves them and loves them even more with ice cream and fudge sauce drizzled all over. They like them plain or with peanut butter cups mixed in. I am good for a bite or two. Well, when cream cheese comes into play and is mixed in with the brownie batter it's gotta be good. How can anything with cream cheese be bad? Nicole chose these from the www.foodnetwork.com site. She calls them the better brownie. They are made with low fat cream cheese, very little butter and oil, some egg whites and low-fat buttermilk. Although they have four steps in the process we had them mixed and in the oven in less than 20 minutes. They also make a nice 8x8-inch pan with 16 squares in all. We ate our lunch and patiently waited for them to cool. Took some pictures and with forks in hand gladly ate a square and shared another. They are delicious. Not too sweet, a nice tang from the cream cheese and a nice moist chocolate bottom. All we could say was Yum!! I like this brownie, like it so much, I had a piece for breakfast. My family is not a big on cream cheese so I will continue to make their favorites. I will however, be making these for friends to share over a hot beverage or just because someone needs these. I think I need to break out those recipes for brownie pie!!! Is low-fat cream cheese and buttermilk on your list this week?

I love this verse I came across while doing my Sunday School lesson-1 Thessalonians 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through & through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Beth Moore mentions how our physical body can impact our soul and spirit. Poor eating habits, stress, lack of sleep and little exercise can lead to all kinds of health problems. When we do not feel well our soul and spirit can feel empty, weary, depressed and hopeless. We have little left to give anyone. Why is it that we can spend plenty of time, energy and money on our homes, gardens, clothes, hobbies etc., but give our bodies little notice? We can make healthy choices, reduce our stress, get that much needed rest and just a few minutes of exercise a day can make all the difference. Feeding your soul and spirit is important as well. For me having some quiet time alone reading God's word, praying, being thankful for all I am blessed with and spending time with family & friends give my life balance. My grandmother always said to me, "everything in balance, you can enjoy one cookie and share dessert."

Cheesecake Brownies-adapted from food network


Cheesecake Topping-
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

Brownie Layer-
2 ounces semisweet chocolate-coarsely chopped (we used bittersweet chocolate chips)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (we used regular salt)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla


Position the rack in the lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with foil so that it hangs over the edge. Spray with cooking spray.

For the topping-Using an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy about 1 minute. Beat in the sugar and the vanilla until smooth, add the egg and blend well. Set aside.

For the brownie layer-Put the chocolate, butter and oil in a microwave safe bowl and melt for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again until smooth.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk, egg whites and the vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk vigorously until fully incorporated and the batter is glossy and thick. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir till well blended. Reserve 1/2 cup of this batter.

Scrape the remaining batter into the prepared pan. Pour the cheesecake mixture evenly over the top. Drop the reserved brownie batter in large dollops over the topping. Draw the handle of a wooden spoon or a knife through the two batters to create a swirl effect.

Bake until the top is just set, 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brownies out of the pan by the foil and peel off foil. Spray a knife with cooking spray and cut into 2-inch squares.

Eat Well, Sonya

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pudding Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love a great chocolate chip cookie? I know I do. I'm not big on thin and crispy, but like them on the soft side. Believe me, there are a ton of recipes out there for just about any kind of chocolate chip cookie. Just pick up a bag of chocolate chips and you have a recipe on the back. My mom always used Nestle chocolate chips and the recipe on the bag. I mean always, she never ventured from what she said was a tried & true recipe. Unlike me who is always trying new recipes, until one day I was going through some old recipes and came across this pudding chip cookie recipe. Wow! do I remember making theses. My mom and I found this recipe on the box of Jello instant pudding and I made a batch for my baking project in Home Economics. I lost the recipe and wrote the jello company asking them for a copy. I remember being thrilled that they sent me a copy. I made them almost every week while in junior high and while I was a freshmen & sophomore. Why I stopped making them I don't know and shocked myself that it's been over 20 years since I made them. Did my life get so busy that I forget the little things I loved to to do? I was thrilled that I had all ingredients on hand and set out to make a batch. Yes, they were exactly as I remembered. Soft, gooey and with an extra hint of vanilla. Next to moms' these are the perfect cookie. No wonder I made them every week. While I was enjoying these little darlings, it quickly brought back all that was doing back them.  A junior high student adjusting to a whole new group of kids, changing classes, and trying to find my bus. Moving on to high school and adjusting to a larger building, more classes, more students and attending a new church, I also was falling in love....I am thrilled that God placed that recipe back in my hands, a little reminder of how recipes that we acquire and the memories that are associated with them are our history, our family tree. I have recipes from mom, dad's family, my husband's family, grandma, aunts, sisters & brothers, friends and even though my cookbook collection is never ending, these recipes are tried & true and link my past with the present. Let's not forget to make those family recipes no matter the occasion or do the things we love.

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. One thing I love to do is go to church with our boys and share our faith and family history with them. They are learning daily about faith in God, their family history and one day will be passing it on to the next generation.

Pudding Chip Cookies-


2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup butter softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 pkg. (4oz) Jello instant pudding & pie filling, vanilla or french vanilla (use the small box)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 pkg. (12oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts-optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour and baking soda set aside.

Cream the butter, sugar, brown sugar and pudding mix till creamy. Add vanilla and eggs mixing well.

Add in the flour mixture to combine, stir in the chips and the nuts. Batter will be stiff.

Drop on ungreased cookie sheets by rounded teaspoonfuls. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Just till the edges are brown and the center is just about set. Let cool on sheet for about a minute. Makes about 3 dozen.

Eat Well, Sonya

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lentil Soup

I just love soup. I could probably eat it everyday and never tire of it. Lentil soup is one of my favorites. My family is not big on lentils, so I took advantage of some quiet time on Saturday and made myself a big pot of soup. When you are nursing a chest cold, soup is always the best medicine. Lentil soup is quite easy and healthy for you. They are packed with protein, iron, fiber, they stabilize your blood sugar and are heart healthy. If you are unsure how to cook them, there is always a recipe on the back of the bag. The recipe I used came from another great book, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes. An American journalist writes about blending her culture with that of her husbands, the man she falls in love with over lunch, in Paris. There are great recipes that follow each chapter. I just love books like this. It's the hopeless romantic in me! Once finished with the book, I was able to continue following the adventures of Lunch in Paris at www.elizabethbard.com the birth of their son and the post of how they stumbled upon their home and it's history, is just, how can I say it, just romantic. Why not pick up a bag and make yourself a bowl of goodness?

The greatest love story I have read is The Bible. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Lentil Soup-


2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot-peeled & chopped
1 medium onion-peeled & chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves-chopped
2 1/2 cup dried lentils (recipe calls for Puy lentils, but I always just use what is available at the store)
6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup dry white wine (use more water or broth if you don't have this on hand)
1 16oz can of chopped tomatoes ( I used a 28oz can with basil, garlic & oregano, reduce water to 2 cups)
1 bay leaf
fresh chopped parsley ( I did not have any on hand)


In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Saute' for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth, tomatoes, water, wine and the bay leaf. Give a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over low heat with the cover ajar until the lentils are tender about 45 minutes. 

You can puree the soup if you like, but I like mine just the way it is. Drizzle with extra olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. This soup freezes well.

Eat Well, Sonya

Monday, January 2, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

I hope that everyone had a wonderful New Year's. Champagne Toast to all!!

I love Mexican food, tacos, Sopa de Albondigas, it's those tiny meatballs that get me every time, taco salad, taco dip, guacamole, salsa, Tres leches cake, creamy flan, margaritas, but I especially love enchiladas. The soft shells that hold that wonderful bean & taco meat filling together and the delicious creamy sauce that covers them like a blanket. When I know that my Aunt is making them, I eat very little that day so that I can gorge myself, yes, gorge myself on them. My family is not big on enchiladas so I look forward to having these. My once a year treat around New Year's Eve. I can eat at least three of them with a side of taco fixings and a big scoop of tortilla chips. They make great entertaining food. You can assemble them ahead, refrigerate, clean up any mess and then pop in the oven just before your guest arrive. While the enchiladas are baking you will have plenty of time to visit, and to munch on some appetizers, you'll need to save room for the main course though. Let the pan rest for 10 minutes, which is perfect to refill those drinks and put the finishing touches on your table. Dinner's ready and you can enjoy with lots of sides. What's even better is I get to take some home for breakfast the next morning! Yes breakfast, our mother raised us that anything is good for breakfast, not just cereal & eggs. Many times soup, stew, pizza and egg salad sandwiches have made a great start to the day. How can I have a bowl of cereal when those enchiladas are beckoning me???

2012 is here and it's going to be amazing! It just has to be for it says in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I am excited to see where God takes our family this year and to journal the adventure. I look forward to seeing doors and windows open & close. Where he leads us, not sure, where my job is going to be, not sure. I do know that 2012 will  bring laughter, joy, happiness, tears, sorrow, but God already has the plan, ways to prosper us, hope above all hope and a future for us, this gives me all the encouragement I need. 

Enchilada Casserole-


1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 16oz can refried beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 Tablespoons oil
12 corn tortillas
2 Tomatoes peeled & chopped or 1 can diced tomatoes-drained
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cups whole milk (tastes much creamier than lower fat versions)
1 10oz jar mild enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup sliced black olives or 1 small can already sliced black olives

For sides, shredded lettuce, onions, peppers, extra tomatoes, sour cream and tortilla chips for scooping.


Cook beef & onion until beef is cooked through and onion is soft. Drain. Stir in the refried beans, salt & pepper. Set aside.

Heat oil and fry shells till soft a few seconds on each side.

Place 1/3 cup meat mixture on each shell, top with tomatoes. Roll up and place seam side down in a 13x9 pan. Fitting them snuggly in.

Melt the butter, stir in the flour, salt and paprika. Add the milk and the enchilada sauce. Stirring till combined. Stir in the cheese and olives and stir till the cheese is nicely meltd. 

Pour over the shells and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for about 10 minutes. Using a spatula is the best way to remove each enchiladas. 

Pass along the sides and enjoy with a great margarita!!!

Eat Well, Sonya