Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fresno Jason's California Cheesecake

Fresno Jason's California Cheesecake

There is a local restaurant that has the best cheesecake! Better than any bakery or the Cheesecake Factory. Better than everyone! The cheesecake has a thick toffee-like crust, a rich cream cheese filling and is topped off with a generous scoop of freshly whipped cream. What's not to like?

Now I have made several recipes for cheesecake. I have found some helpful tips along the way, that I am going to share with you. You know for all cooking and baking, it really isn't about the recipe. It is about the technique. Does your cheesecake crack? Well read along and you will know the right cooking temperature to prevent that. Let's begin:

My recipe starts with the crust. Wanting my crust to be like the restaurant, I doubled the amount of graham cracker crumbs you would normally use in a recipe. 

The crackers are crumbled, using a food processor. Then brown sugar is pulsed in. The cracker mixture is blended with butter.

Then pressed into a spring form pan, to bake. It is a good idea to place the spring form pan inside a baking tray. This helps with spills, and helps to remove, the pan, from the oven easier. The crust is baked at 350 for 7 minutes. Then cooled completely before filling. 

The crust can be baked ahead of time. However, if you are making this the same day, please note to turn the oven down to 275. Then proceed to making the filling:

Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature: cream cheese, sour cream and eggs. This will prevent a lumpy mixture. Start by beating the  cream cheese and sour cream; until the mixture is smooth.

Blend in the sugar/flour mixture.

Stir in eggs and vanilla. (I really like that mid air shot of the egg falling into the mixer.) 

Making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer, before giving one final stir.

Run a knife through the filling prior to baking, to release some of the air bubbles. Wouldn't it be funny if you slammed the pan on the counter, to release the bubbles, and cracked that crust? Ha Ha! Put the spring form pan in the center of a sheet pan. Bake at 275 for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. The center will be slightly jiggly.

This is the trick to mastering the cheesecake. You bake low and slow, at 275. No water bath, or bain-Marie, needed.

Lets pause for a moment and look at this perfectly baked cheesecake..... Once removed from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack. Place on the counter and let it come to room temperature. This will take a few hours. Be patient! Good things come to those who wait. Once the cake has cooled, transfer to the refrigerator. Wait some more. Let it chill completely. 6 or 8 hours, overnight is preferred.

You'll need to run a knife along the inside edge of the pan, to help release. Unbuckle the spring form pan, then transfer to a cake plate. 

Since my son requests this for his birthday, I put canned cherries as a decorative topping. If you want the restaurant version you would make home made whipped topping using heavy cream and sugar. Either way this is one fine tasting cheesecake.


2 Sleeves graham crackers, crushed
¾ Cup brown sugar
½ Cup butter, melted

1/3 Cup flour
1 ½ Cups sugar
5 (8 ounce) Packages Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
¾ Cup sour cream, room temperature
3 Whole eggs + 2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Fresh or canned fruit
Whipped cream

*  Before you begin this recipe. Make sure the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs are at room temperature. To make crust:  Combine graham crackers and brown sugar, in a food processor. Blend until crackers are a fine crumb. Add melted butter; mixing well. Press graham cracker mixture into a springform pan, covering the bottom, and up the sides; as desired. Place springform pan on a baking tray, to catch any potential leaks. Bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool completely.  Lower oven temperature to 275. To make filling:  Sift flour and sugar, in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large mixer, blend cream cheese and sour cream, until smooth. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Run a butter knife through batter, to release air bubbles. Level batter with an offset spatula. Bake at 275, for 2 hours; until the middle of the cheesecake is firm. Cool cake to room temperature. Chill completely, in refrigerator. Serve with your choice of toppings.

  • Cake with a cheesecake layer: this recipe will make two cheesecake layers. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Deseed a Tomato

I was looking through photos, and came across this one. There is a story that goes with it. We were out to dinner, one evening, at a popular chain restaurant. It's the restaurant that spends its money on an in house butcher.

I wanted a salad, and I thought, surely their chef can make a salad, without the tomato seeds. I put in my request. 

The waitress returned to the table, "The cook said he doesn't have time to pick out each seed!" Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Just in case you don't know, or you've never thought about it, deseeding a tomato is quite easy. 

Just slice the tomato in half, vertically. Then, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. From there you can slice, or dice, depending on your preference.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hershey's Chocolate Frosting

The folks at Hershey's know their stuff! Hands down, they have the best chocolate cake recipe in the world. So you would expect them to have the best chocolate frosting, for their cake.

To a large mixing bowl, mix the melted butter, cocoa and vanilla.

Beat in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. 

Stir in the milk, alternating with the powdered sugar. You may not use all the milk. Add a couple teaspoons at a time. 

You will have a smooth, spreadable frosting.

Sometimes, I make my frosting the day before I frost the cake. I just store in an airtight container, and keep on the counter. You can make your frosting weeks ahead of time, but if you choose to do that, you will need to keep the frosting refrigerated. 

If frosting a double layer cake, with a simple design. One batch of frosting should be enough.

If you choose to do piping, then you will need a double batch of frosting.


1/2 Cup butter, melted
2/3 Cup Hershey's cocoa powder
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Cups powdered sugar
1/3 Cup milk or heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, stir butter, cocoa, and vanilla extract; to combine. Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat to a smooth spreading consistency. Store in an airtight container. 

For a simply frosted cake: single recipe
For a piped cake: double recipe

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hershey's Chocolate Cake

Every once in a while a cake comes along, that stands the test of time. This is that cake! The first time our family tried it, was a birthday celebration, where my mother-in-law made the cake. She had a knack for trying new recipes, and this became a family favorite.

I must confess, this is the base, of most of my chocolate cake creations. I hope to share more on this blog: Chocolate Mousse Cake, Chocolate Cake with a Cheesecake Layer, Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes, to name a few.

I, always, take the time to prepare my cake pans. That means: greasing, lining with parchment, and dusting with flour. I know it sounds like a chore, but I've never had a cake stick, when I make the effort, to prepare the pans. 

Start by sifting the dry ingredients, into a large mixing bowl.

Beat in: eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.

Stir in boiling water.

The batter will be thin. 

Bake at 350, for 30 to 35 minutes; or until cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean.

This is a small cake I made for my niece, in addition to a larger cake, the family shared. She thought if she swiped her finger through the frosting, no one would want to eat the cake. I wonder how that worked out. 


2 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
3/4 Cup Hershey's cocoa powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Eggs
1 Cup milk
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9" round baking pans. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans. Bake 30 - 35 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with Hershey's Chocolate Frosting. 

Bake your choice: 
2 layer 9" cake 
9 x 13" Sheet Cake
24 Cupcakes
Cooking times will vary. Use your cake tester, to check for doneness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Recipe (Punch)

Summer's here! It's time to paaaarrrrrttttaaayyyy! What screams party, better than a great tasting punch? Nothing. That's right. Nothing better than punch, to, well........... Punch up your party!

This recipe comes to me, from my dear friend, Erica. This is her father-in-law's recipe. I asked her what the name of the punch is. She said, he just calls it, The Recipe. I'm thinking, when It comes to punches, this is THE RECIPE to have.

I'm not going to post photos of me dumping juices into a bowl, and adding fruit slices. Instead, lets just drink up this pretty bowl of fruit punch.


1 (12 Ounce) Can frozen fruit punch mix
1 (64 Ounce) Jug unsweetened grapefruit juice
1 (64 Ounce) Jug unsweetened orange juice
1 (64 Ounce) Jug cranberry juice
2 Liters Ginger Ale
1 Orange, sliced
1 Lemon, sliced
1 Lime, sliced

Pour juices into a large punch bowl. Add fruit slices. Just prior to serving, pour in ginger ale. Stir to combine.

*This recipe makes two large punch bowls. I suggest you divide the liquids in half. Once halved, the second batch is just a matter of pouring the remaining liquids into the punch bowl.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff. The mention of it brings up memories of a different time. I was a young, 17 year old newlywed, living in the Amish Country of Ohio. My husband and I were living with his brother. The men worked the oil fields. I only had one job, and that was making dinner. Fresh out of high school, I'm the first to admit, I didn't know much about anything. My brother-in-law's pantry consisted of convenience items. Among them were Stroganoff Hamburger Helper and instant mashed potatoes.

Recently, I thought I would make an attempt at replicating Hamburger Helper's Stroganoff recipe. I mean, I can cook. How hard can it be? I am happy to report, that this recipe is so tasty. After having the boxed stuff, last night, I was kind of surprised to find it on the bland side. Sorry Hamburger Helper, it's been a good ride, but I am going to make my own from now on.

You'll need a Dutch oven, or large skillet, with a tight fitting lid. Start by heating up some olive oil, on medium high heat. Saute button mushrooms, then set aside.


Using the same pan, crumble ground beef, and cook until browned. Drain grease. Return mushrooms to the pan.

*If you know me by now, I don't eat beef. This is ground turkey breast that has been fortified with Kitchen Bouquet.

I didn't want to name the recipe Turkey Stroganoff, because that doesn't sound appetizing.

Stir in Worcestershire sauce. Add flour, Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix, pepper, and salt; blending well. Stir in water and milk. Bring to a boil.

* While making this recipe, It was going the route of Beef and Noodles, with sour cream mixed it. It was good, but needed a little 'zing'. I poked around, in my spice cabinet; reaching for my home made Italian Dressing Mix. Wouldn't you know I was out. Then, this caught my eye. I started with, 1 tablespoon at a time, making my way up to 4 tablespoons in this recipe. The Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning and Salad Dressing Mix is key to this recipe.

Stir in noodles.

Reduce heat to medium low. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Stir noodles every 2-3 minutes, until noodles have softened; about 10 minutes.

Stir in sour cream. Heat thoroughly, over medium low heat.

Creamy Beef Stroganoff. The optimum in comfort food.

Nothing fancy going on here. I just serve the Stroganoff over mashed potatoes.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 Ounces button mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Pound ground beef - or - 1 Pound ground turkey (fortified with 1 Tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce)
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1 Teaspoon pepper
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Cups water
1 Cup milk
8 Ounces egg noodles
1 Cup sour cream

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, over medium high heat, in a large skillet, or Dutch Oven. Sauté mushrooms, until browned. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl. Using the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, over medium high heat. Cook meat until is browned, and crumbled. Drain liquids. Add mushrooms to meat. Stir in Worcestershire sauce. Stir in flour, Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix, salt, and pepper. Add water and milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in egg noodles. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover skillet with a tight fitting lid. Cook until noodles are softened; stirring occasionally. It should take approximately 10 minutes for noodles to soften. Once noodles are softened, stir in sour cream. Heat thoroughly, over medium low heat.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Linda's Spaghetti Sauce

The recipe I am about to share, is the Spaghetti Sauce my mom perfected. I remember mom at the stove, carefully tending to her pot of sauce. Back then, mom was tweaking her recipe. A little of this, a pinch of that. She also took notes, on what other relatives were putting in their sauce. I recall a phone conversation she had with Aunt Violet. It was during that conversation, I learned Aunt Violet put orange juice in her meat sauce. Mom tried that. She also tried wine. As she experimented, I was always willing to be her taste tester; and my friends were, too. I recall one of them being taken back, at the first taste of the sauce. Stopped in her tracks, and blown away, she proclaimed, "This is good!" I think she would have happily eaten dinner, at the stove, dipping bread into the sauce. It was hard to pull her away. I am thankful to have this recipe in my repertoire.

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but I am going to break it down, to manageable tasks.

Now, back in the day, mom served her meat sauce with spaghetti noodles. That is fine, but I prefer Roasted Spaghetti Squash. To me, the taste is better than pasta. Also, using squash replaces bad carbohydrates, for healthy, nutritious carbohydrates. With this swap, I don't feel guilty eating the garlic bread. The recipe can be found here: Roasted Spaghetti Squash

* Since I am taking the time to roast, I always throw in a whole bulb of garlic, or two. It's nice to have roasted garlic on hand. It also stores well, shrink wrapped, in the freezer.

Today I am using a 50/50 mix of ground turkey breast, and Italian sausage. Since ground turkey is involved, I always fortify the ground turkey with Kitchen Bouquet.

Let me just put this out there, because I know my mom will call me and say, "I don't use ground turkey!"

Mom uses ground beef, in her recipe. However, you can use any combination, of meats: beef, pork, Italian sausage, ground turkey etc.

The squash is in the oven, and all the ingredients are prepped. This will move along nicely.

To begin: choose a large frying pan that has a lid. Start by sauteing the button mushrooms, in a little olive oil. Remove from pan, and set aside. 

Using the same pan, saute onion, and garlic, with olive oil.

Add meat mixture to the onion and garlic. Cook over medium high heat, until the meat has browned.

Drain liquids.

*The easiest way to remove the liquids, is to tilt the pan, and absorb with a paper towel.

Stir in Contadina Tomato Paste, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Per my mom, you must use Contadina tomato paste! The water ratio is:  2 cans of water, for each can of tomato paste. Stir to combine.

Add mushrooms to the sauce.

Bring spaghetti sauce to a boil.

If you've ever brought spaghetti sauce to a boil, you know that it splatters all over the place. This is why you need to use a pan with a lid. As it is coming to a boil, you will want to cover the pan. If you notice the picture, you see the spatula is keeping the lid propped open.

Once the sauce has come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Continue simmering for 30 minutes.

Just prior to serving, stir in fresh herbs. 

As I mentioned before, I like to serve the sauce with Roasted Spaghetti Squash. Just fluff up the strands of squash, to resemble spaghetti. Use a fork, and follow the direction of the strands. Make a well in the center, of the squash, for the sauce.

* For plating presentation, I am using the squash as a bowl. If you choose a small squash, it makes the perfect sized serving.

Healthy eating never looked so good!


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil,
1 Large red onion, diced
5 Large garlic cloves, minced
1 Pound ground round (or combination of: Italian sausage, pork, turkey, etc.)
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon pepper
1/4 Teaspoon oregano
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1/4 Teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 (6 ounce) Cans Contadina Tomato Paste + 4 (6 ounce) Cans water
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 Cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup fresh basil, chopped

Heat olive oil, in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Saute mushrooms, until browned. Remove from pan, and set aside. Using the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onion and garlic, until softened. Add meat to onions and garlic. Continue cooking over medium high heat. Crumble meat, and cook until browned. Drain liquids. Stir in salt, pepper, oregano, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Stir in Contadina Tomato Paste, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, using the lid, mostly covered, to prevent splattering. Once sauce has come to a boil, reduce heat, to medium low. Let sauce simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil. Serve with spaghetti noodles, or Spaghetti Squash. 

*To use spaghetti squash halves, as serving bowl, look for smaller sized squash.