Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Sugar Cookie Crust

I’ve been on a homemade cooking kick for the past two weeks. It’s been great. I tend to cook more when I’m stressed and it really helps me relax.

The star of our last meal (according to my husband) was this cheesecake. We’re huge cheesecake fans, and I was craving a piece. Whenever we go to Chicago we make sure to stop at The Cheesecake Factory. My perennial favorite there is the Vanilla Cheesecake. It’s simple but amazing.

This cheesecake has a vanilla bean base with a layer of fluffy white chocolate mousse and a topping of real whipped cream. Instead of a graham cracker crust, I used sugar cookies. It was accidental – I looked in the pantry and realized we didn’t have enough graham crackers. I was going to go to the store when my dear husband pointed to the cookie jar and suggested the leftover sugar cookies we had. It was a great decision – it adds an extra vanilla kick and has a sweet and crunchy finish.

I adapted this recipe from Amy in the Kitchen. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Large Sugar Cookies, Finely Crushed (or about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 sticks butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 20 ounces of cream cheese (2.5 packs)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 4 ounces of white chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

This recipe is done in stages since both the cheesecake and the toppings need to be made separately.

  1. For the cheesecake filling – Soften 16 ounces of cream cheese and two sticks of butter, add the sugar and beat on high until smooth and fluffy. Add the sour cream, vanilla bean, and cornstarch. Beat on high until smooth and fully incorporated. I found it best to add the cornstarch in via a sifter so there would be no lumps. Set the filling aside.
  2. For the sugar cookie crust – melt one stick of butter and add to the crushed cookies along with the egg and brown sugar. Press the cookie mixture into a springform pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the crust for 12 minutes at 320 degrees. Set it aside and let it cool.
  3. After the crust has cooled, add the cheesecake filling and smooth the top. Bake for one hour at 320 degrees, Don’t worry – the center may still be a little soft. It’ll firm up in the fridge. After it is cooked, place it in the fridge overnight. Your patience will be rewarded!
  4. For the white chocolate mousse layer – melt 4 ounces of white chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Set it aside. Beat one cup of heavy cream until stiff – like the texture of Cool Whip. Add in the powdered sugar, and 4 ounces of softened cream cheese. Add the melted white chocolate and beat on high until smooth and fluffy. Place in the fridge overnight.
  5. For the whipped cream layer (my favorite!) – simply beat one cup of heavy cream until stiff. Add a touch of granulated sugar if you like, but I love it as is – the rich cream adds a wonderful contrast to the sugary vanilla. Place in the fridge overnight.
  6. The next day, first layer the cheesecake base with the white chocolate mousse. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so, then add the whipped cream layer. I stuck it back in the fridge at this point so the layers would firm up, but if you can’t wait, dig in!

Hangover Soup

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Since I moved to Michigan, my soup making skills have gotten so much better. Probably because it is so cold here thanks to the lake effect, and a pot of hot soup simmering in the kitchen makes me forget how cold it is outside.

I like soups that are chock full of meats and vegetables and spices, so I was really glad to find a recipe for Hangover Soup. It has a really funny name, but it is absolutely delicious and filling. I found this recipe on Food Network and adapted it for my family’s tastes.

It has a rich, creamy broth redolent of pork and bacon, and full of hearty vegetables. Best of all, you can make it in the crockpot and go about your day.

Hangover Soup 

Adapted from Food Network

Makes 8 Servings

  • 8 cups of chicken broth
  • 5 pieces of center cut bacon
  • 2 cups pork loin, chopped
  • 2 links of sweet Italian sausage, chopped
  • 2 cups of cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • One teaspoon each of Paprika and Bay Leaf, Salt and Pepper
  1. Prepare the crockpot by drizzling a little olive oil in the pot
  2. Cook the chopped bacon over medium high heat. Remove the bacon but leave the drippings in the pan. Place the bacon into the crockpot.
  3. Fry the diced garlic, pork loin, and sausage in the bacon drippings until cooked. Drain off the fat and add the cooked meat to the crockpot.
  4. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions to the crockpot. Add the seasonings and stir.
  5. Pour the chicken broth in, and put the temperature on low. Cook for 4-6 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can cook for 2 on high.
  6. Before serving, stir in the cream.
  7. Serve with bread and enjoy!

Homemade Orange Cleaner

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If you’re like me, cleaning isn’t the most fun for you. However, I’ve found that I enjoy it more when I’m using stuff that I made myself – stuff that smells fantastic and saved me money!

Most of my favorite cleaning products have citrus in them. It smells good, and the oils suck up grease and grime like nobody’s business. I decided to make my own version, and I know you’ll love it! It only has two ingredients and you probably have them in your kitchen right now!

All you need is a bag of fresh oranges and a bottle of white distilled vinegar. These two items are superstars in our house for all the things you can do with them!

Orange Cleaner

  • 1 bag of oranges (I choose Clementines for their size and extra sweet scent)
  • 1 gallon of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 plastic gallon container

What to do

  1. Take out five oranges. Slice four of them up into quarters and place them in your gallon container.
  2. Take the remaining orange and use a food grater or zester to remove the skin (if you don’t have a grater, just peel the orange instead)
  3. Place the rinds/skin into the container
  4. Pour half of the vinegar into the container, over the rinds and orange slices
  5. As you go through the week, eat the rest of the oranges and save the peels. Put them into the gallon container.
  6. When you run out of oranges, pour the rest of the white vinegar into the gallon container. Seal it, and set it aside for two weeks.

That’s all there is to it! Let the container sit, and in two weeks you will have the most amazing orange cleaner you will ever use! Get yourself a spray bottle and a coffee filter and you can use it. Place the coffee filter into the spray bottle and pour the orange mixture in. This filters out any of the rind that might clog the spray nozzle.

You can use it on ANY surface – except for wood. I’m not sure how the vinegar and oil would react on wood, so I’ve never tried. But it keeps bathrooms and kitchens and windows absolutely spotless! And the smell is divine!

That’s all there is to it! You can keep adding vinegar and new orange peels to the gallon so you always have a fresh supply!

25 Amazing Christmas Cookie Recipes

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Merry Christmas!

I hope you’re enjoying a holiday full of food, friends, family, and joy.

I always look forward to my Christmas baking, especially the cookies. Each year, I make some traditional Italian cookies like Pizzelles, and of course, sugar cookies. But I always try something new and fun as well. I tried a lot of these recipes over the past year and they’re absolutely delicious. They would be a welcome addition to any Christmas dinner or cookie swap.

There are flavors for everyone – coffee, peppermint, pumpkin, and so much more.

In no particular order, here are my favorite 25 cookie recipes from this year.

All photographs are property of their respective bloggers.

25 . Cookie Dough Ritz Crackers from Crazy for Crust

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Recipe Here

24. Apricot Oatmeal Cookies from Amy’s Healthy Baking

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Recipe Here

23. The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever from In Katrina’s Kitchen

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Recipe Here

22. Cinnamon Marscapone Cut Out Cookies from Bakeaholic Mama

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Recipe Here

21. Toffee Crunch Chocolate Cookies from Roxana’s Home Baking

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Recipe Here

20. Espresso Snickerdoodles from Lemons for Lulu 

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Recipe Here

19. Italian Ricotta Cookies from Love Bakes Good Cakes

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Recipe Here

18. Hot Buttered Rum Cookies from Babble

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Recipe Here

17. Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprints from Something Swanky 

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Recipe Here

16. Snowflake Filled Snowman Cookies from Hungry Happening

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Recipe Here

15. Peppermint Shortbread from Mom on Timeout

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Recipe Here

14. Nutella Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies from Handle the Heat

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Recipe Here

13. Pumpkin Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting from Cooking Classy

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Recipe Here

12. Vanilla Bean Christmas Sugar Cookies from Lauren’s Latest

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Recipe Here

11. Cranberry Pecan Pie Crust Cookies from Home is Where the Boat Is

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Recipe Here

10. Oreo Peppermint Crunch Cookies from Inside Bru Crew Life

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Recipe Here

9. Butter Almond Meltaway Cookies from Back for Seconds

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Recipe Here

8. Penguin Cookies from Delightful E Made 

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Recipe Here

7. New York Cheesecake Cookies from KitchMe

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Recipe Here

6. Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction

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Recipe Here

5. Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies from Averie Cooks

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Recipe Here

4. S’mores Cookies from Baker Girl 

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Recipe Here

3. Triple Chip Pudding Cookies from What’s Cooking Love

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Recipe Here

2. Brownie Cookies from It Bakes Me Happy

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Recipe Here

1. Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Creme Cookies from Bakers Royale

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Recipe Here

I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I did!

Christmas Decorations : Manicure Monday

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I love Christmas decorations! Looking at them each day around the house just makes my day a little bit better. So, I decided to decorate my nails for this week’s Manicure Monday.

I went with a tree, ornaments, lights, and fluffy tinsel. I love it!

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I can’t decide which I like better – the tree or the lights!

I’m not very good at detail for my right hand (I’ll get there someday) so I just used my trusty dotting tools to add lots of color.

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Polishes Used

  • Background – Essie in Topless & Barefoot
  • Tree – Sally Hansen Complete in On Pines & Needles
  • Red ornaments – China Glaze in Poinsettia
  • Gold ornaments and tinsel – Orly Color Blast in Rose Chrome Foil
  • Star – Sally Hansen Hi-Definition in Lite

I also used my Muji 0.38 gel pens for the lights and detail on the ornament. They’re seriously a nail art lover’s best friend. I’ve yet to use a pen that rivals it. You can get your own Muji pens on Amazon

I always top my manicures with my DIY Gel Manicure Top Coat as well. It ensures that they last, and costs a fraction of the fanciest top coat.

Happy Holidays to you!

DIY Gift Wrap Ideas

The holidays are here again. Hanukkah has begun, and Christmas is six days away. I love this time of year – food, friends, family – even though I’m not a fan of the weather that comes along with it.

I finished my Christmas shopping a while ago, but I hadn’t sat down to wrap anything until a few nights ago. It was then that I discovered we had zero wrapping paper in the house. Nothing left over from last year, not even a roll of Birthday paper. But I still had a pile of gifts, and I really didn’t want to go out and buy wrapping paper. Especially not since I read an article from Stanford University, about how much paper we waste each holiday season.

If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

We recycle regularly, so it occurred to me that I had a wealth of materials already at my fingertips. So I flattened out a few paper grocery bags, added some ribbon and color, and made some really nice wrapping paper!

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You can be really creative this way, and then whatever you use can just be recycled! Try paper bags, newspaper, old coloring book pages (great idea for kids!), whatever you can find!

I decided to peruse Pinterest and other bloggers to see what else I could come up with for some fun and environmentally friendly ideas.

Socks and Scarves!

This is a great idea – nothing is wasted, and really, it’s like two gifts in one!

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Look at this idea from Formal Fringe – a bottle of wine all wrapped up in cute socks.

Legos!

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This might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Yes, that is a Christmas present wrapped up in a box made of Legos!  Check out DIY Life for even more ideas!

Fabric, Pillowcases, and More!

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Buzzfeed is my go-to website for fun and inventive ideas when it comes to .  . . well, pretty much EVERYTHING! But they’ve outdone themselves with this list of unexpected gift wrap ideas. My favorite is the decorated fabric that can be reused again and again! You could even make something special and personalized for a friend or family member to be used each year! A pillowcase would especially be great!

I hope your holidays are merry and bright and maybe a little more environmentally conscious this year.

Join Influenster!

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I am a proud member of Influenster.

I’ve posted about the amazing VoxBoxes and perks that I’ve gotten as a member – like makeup and lotions, coffee and treats, all sorts of things!

But you might be wondering what Influenster actually is, and what I do. It’s an amazing website where you can review products, stores, restaurants, and so much more.

You can search for products and see what others have to say. If you’re curious while you’re out shopping, you can use the Influenster app to scan a barcode on a product and immediately get reviews on it! No more indecision in the aisles.

Doing all of these things gets you VoxBoxes and chances for giveaways and prizes. I’ve gotten 3 physical VoxBoxes this year and 6 virtual VoxBoxes, all for doing simple reviews! Just this past week I got $20.00 in giftcards from eBay!

You also get VoxPerks for being a member and answering questions – freebies and discounts and coupons for great online retailers.

And now is your chance to join Influenster and start earning rewards and VoxBoxes! Just follow the link below! And it’s free!

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