Dolce de Leche Cheesecake

January 10, 2010


Caramel and pecan cheesecake – how can you go wrong!?  This cheesecake is light and creamy, features a wonderful texture due to the addition of pecans and is perfectly caramel-topped.

Crust Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp light brown sugar

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Garnish Ingredient:

Crust Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir in Graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans and tbsp brown sugar. Press the cracker mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 9 inch springform pan.

Filling Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and the cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one, until blended (do not overmix).
  2. Hand stir in almond extract, vanilla, sour cream, and chopped pecans until well combined.  Pour filling into pan over crust.
  3. Bake for 55 minutes, until set.  Remove pan from the oven while the topping is being prepared.

Topping Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, brown sugar, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Cover the cheesecake with topping mixture.  Return the cheesecake to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a small knife along the pan to ensure the cheesecake isn’t attached to the pan wall.  Unlatch the pan wall.  Cool until room temperature, then remove the pan wall and refrigerate.

Garnish Directions

  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat the Dulce de Leche for 30 seconds, until it’s in a liquid state.
  2. Using a small fork, drizzle Dulce de Leche on the surface of the cheesecake.
Cheesecake Slice

Cheesecake Slice

Serves 10.


Maple Taffee on Snow (Tire sur la Neige)

December 28, 2009
Maple Taffee on Snow 2

Maple Taffee on Snow 2

As my family began getting ready for the food frenzy my visit to Quebec would bring on, one thing that my oldest niece, Maude, wanted to be sure my sister would fix for us is Tire sur la Neige, or Maple Taffee on Snow.  This treat is one most popular at sugar shacks during maple syrup season, but great anytime there’s snow outside.


  • 2 – 3 cups maple syrup
  • Freshly gathered snow packed tightly into a wide, low container


  1. Maple Taffee on Snow

    Maple Taffee on Snow

    Pour the maple syrup into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until it reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer, approximately 4-5 minutes.

  2. Using a ladle,  drizzle some of the hot syrup onto the snow, making certain not to cover the entire surface (you can re-pour additional syrup after the first round of taffee is gone).
  3. Let the taffee set for a minute then pick up by rolling on a fork or wooden chopstick.

Notes:  Don’t have snow where you live?  Finely-crushed ice from a blender would work!

Grandma’s Chocolate and Peanut Butter Treats

December 28, 2009
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Treats

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Treats

These treats come straight from my childhood as my Grandma made them for the holidays as far back as I can remember.  She’d make a double batch and freeze the finished treats so we’d have them well into the new year.


  • 1/3 cup grated paraffin wax
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups puffed rice cereal


  1. Melt paraffin and chocolate in a glass or metal bowl placed over a pot of simmering water over medium-low heat.  Don’t allow the bowl to touch the simmering water.
  2. Add peanut butter to the melted chocolate and blend well until fully incorporated.
  3. Stir the powdered sugar into the mixture.  Remove from heat and add the puffed rice cereal, making certain that the cereal is fully coated with the chocolate mixture.
  4. Drop spoonful of the mixture on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and cool.  Refrigerate cooled treats.

Makes approximately 24 treats.

Notes: Paraffin wax can be found at most grocery stores in the canning section where Mason Jars are found.  Only use consumable wax such as Gulf Paraffin Wax.  Grate the paraffin using a box grater or microplane.

Cherry Blossom Treats

December 15, 2009

I’m Canadian and one of the candy bars I loved as a kid was the Cherry Blossom.  This treat features a thick chocolate, peanut butter and coconut shell with a tasty cherry syrup and maraschino cherry center.  The Cherry Blossom is a treat I always look forward to having when I go visit my folks in Quebec, and my mother shared the recipe we’d made when I was a kid.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

For the chocolate treat:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup grated paraffin wax
  • 1 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup grated coconut
  • 12 whole, red maraschino cherries

Chocolate treat directions:

Combine all the chocolate treat ingredients in a microwaveable dish and microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring after each minute, until the mixture is nearly completely melted, 2-4 minutes.  Stir mixture thoroughly to ensure any un-melted bits are completely melted.

Cherry syrup:

  • 1/2 cup cherry liquid from a red maraschino cherry jar
  • 1 cup confectioner sugar

Cherry syrup directions:

In a small bowl, combine the liquid and the confectioner sugar, stirring until a thick syrup is created.

Assembly directions:

  1. Wash and dry a Styrofoam egg container, cut off the lid with scissors then oil each egg compartment well.
  2. Take melted chocolate mixture and cover each egg compartment with a thick coating using a spoon.  Work fast as the mixture will harden quickly.  If the mixture gets too hard, microwave it for 30 seconds.
  3. Add a cherry and about 1 tablespoon of cherry syrup to each egg compartment, then use additional chocolate to create a ‘lid’ for each treat.  Ensure the chocolate ‘lids’ seal in the syrup completely to avoid leaks.  Cover the egg container with cling wrap.
  4. Refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.  Unmold each treat carefully, then wrap each treat with aluminum foil.  Keep refrigerated.

Yields 12 treats.

Notes: You could use a cardboard egg container, but you’d need to line it with cling wrap that you’d then oil thoroughly.  Paraffin wax can be found at most grocery stores in the canning section where Mason Jars are found.  Only use consumable wax such as Gulf Paraffin Wax.  Instead of using oil on the egg container, you could also use cooking spray.

Koulourakia – Greek Cookies

December 13, 2009


I dated a Greek guy for three years when I was younger and absolutely loved the holidays at his parents’ home.  Tons of cooking and baking and I learned a lot about simple, tasty food from his mother and Yia Yia (his Grand-Mother).  Every Easter, his Yia Yia would come to the house and bake her Koulourakia cookies.  She didn’t have a recipe, just memories from the old country but was willing to let me write down the ingredients and her techniques for the enjoyment of the next generation.  I’ve come up with the measurements in the following recipe as I didn’t think many people would appreciate the “put enough flour so that the dough will be okay”.  These cookies are dry and almost tasteless, but are addictive and you’ll want a dozen at-a-time.  Here’s to Theodora!


  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ounce of whiskey mixed with a pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • flour (approximately 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large egg beaten with ¼ cup milk
  • sesame seeds (approximately 5 tbsp)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the butter until creamy, approximately 1 minute.  Add sugar and blend.  Add eggs, beating well after each one.  Add baking powder.  Add whiskey mixture and vanilla.   Add flour.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
  3. On a lightly-floured surface, form a tbsp of dough into a ball then roll it into a 7-inch long rope (sprinkle dough with some flour if too sticky).  Take the two ends of the rope, join them then twist to form a braid.
  4. Line 4 cookie sheets with wax paper.  Place cookie braids about 2 inches apart on the wax paper-lined trays and brush tops with the egg and milk mixture.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with sesame seeds.
  5. Place two cookie sheets on the top rack of the oven and bake until tops of cookies are browned, approximately 10 minutes, then switch the cookie sheets from the upper oven rack to the bottom oven rack and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Repeat process with additional baking sheets.
  6. Take cookies out of the oven and cool for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a kitchen towel and cool completely.

Makes 48 cookies.

Notes:  You’ll need 4 cookie sheets for this recipe (can cool and wash the first 2 cookie sheets after the first batch of cookies have baked).  You’ll likely need to re-refrigerate the dough after you roll and braid enough cookies for 2 baking sheets.  Not into braiding?  Koulourakia can also be made into a circle using a 7-inch long rope!  Do not store cookies before they’ve cooled completed or they’ll lose their crunch.

Maple Syrup Pie

November 7, 2009

Not many dishes exemplify true Canadian goodness like the Maple Syrup Pie.  Served around the holidays, or for special occasions, this simply-made pie is both beautiful and delicious.  My Grand-Mother probably would not approve of this microwaveable version, but those of us who have a limited amount of time to bake will be thankful.   The pie dough leaves are optional but create an Autumnal flair.

Maply Syrup Pie

Maply Syrup Pie

Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1  9-inch Press-In Shortbread Pie Crust, baked

Decorative Leaves Ingredients (Optional):

  • 1 store-bought, refrigerated rolled pie crust
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Pie Directions:

  1. Place all pie ingredients, except for the crust, in a large, microwaveable bowl.  Whisk well to incorporate all the ingredients.  Note that there will initially be lumps due to the butter.
  2. Microwave on high for 9 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes to smooth out the mixture.
  3. Pour mixture into the baked pie crust and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Leaves Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out the pie crust, cut 5-6 leaves using a cookie cutter.  Place the leaves on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Whisk the egg with the milk.  Using a pastry brush, brush the leaves with the egg mixture, then sprinkle a bit of sugar on the surface of each leaf.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

If using leaves, place on the surface of the finished pie.

Serves 8-10.

Notes:  Pie can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 4 days.  If doubled or tripled, the pies can easily be frozen wrapped in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil.

Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

October 29, 2009

As someone who grew up with a sister addicted to Nutella, I find interesting the idea of being able to whip up a batch of the decadent chocolate-hazelnut spread within just a few minutes.


  • 2 cups raw hazelnuts
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger or Ghirardelli
  • 3 tbs hazelnut oil, more as needed (could be vegetable oil, but flavor will be less intense)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt


Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet;  roast until they become aromatic, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the nuts to a damp towel; rub to remove the skins.  Grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter in a food processor, scraping the sides as needed, about 5 minutes.

Add the sugar, cocoa, oil, vanilla and salt to the food processor;  process until blended to the consistency of creamy peanut butter, about 1 minute.  If it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil.  Remove to a container;  cover. Refrigerate until needed.  Let come to room temperature before using.  It will keep for at least a week.

Makes: 1 ½ cups

Source: Chicago Tribune