The Best Darn Cheesecake You’ll Ever Have

Mama’s made her 1st Cheesecake (hey, we’ve gotta have our own milestones, too, right?)!

Cooling, all pretty and stuff 🤤

I won’t bore you with a lot of jibber jabber about how this recipe is a family secret and Grandma Mae used to make it every year (I don’t even have a Grandma Mae, and I concocted this recipe from a few different ones on Internet). But I will tell you this is the perfect seasonal dessert to bring to *any* gathering or eat all by yourself in one sitting. Either way, it’s divine.

This whole process is super simple and family-friendly for the kitchen, but it does take about 7-10 hours from start to finish. Just a heads up that this miiiiight be the perfect winter break activity to do with your kids ALL DAY LONG. So, preheat your oven to 350 now, so you don’t forget later 😜

Interior shot of the best darn cheesecake ever

Crust:

1 3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (about 15 full crackers)

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, granulated sugar, and salt together evenly. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of 9-inch springform pan (or a thin, pre-made pie pan if that’s what you have – it’s what I worked with!)

Pre-baked apples

Apple Filling:

4 apples (peeled & sliced)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup water or apple juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp sea salt

1/3 cup sugar

Mix it all up, and bake at 350 until desired softness and juices have turned into a thicker syrup like consistency.

Cheesy coconut filing:

16 ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature (I prefer whipped cream cheese for a lighter, fluffier cake)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup coconut milk, room temperature

1 teaspoons vanilla

1.5 eggs, room temperature

Mix cheese and sugar at a medium speed with a flat mixing spoon or mixer attachment. Then lightly beat in the rest of the ingredients.

Ready to bake!

When the apples are done, bake the crust for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Set the cooled apples in the bottom of the pie pan, then cover with the cheesecake mixture. Make sure the bottom of the cheesecake pan is tightly sealed, then place it in a larger, deeper pan of hot water (so that the water never actually touches the pie tin, and only surrounds it).

Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until top has become a slight golden color. Take it out and cool it for an hour. After it’s cooled, tightly wrap it and place it in the fridge for anywhere from 6 hours to the whole night to set. Then ENJOY because this is the best cheesecake you’ll ever have 🤤

Hubby’s serving suggestion

An Ode to Trader Joe’s Watermelon-Cucumber Juice

I’m a foodie to the nth degree, and when I find a new product I fall in love with – especially from super affordable Trader Joe’s – I want to shout it from the rooftops!

Instead, to avoid my neighbors trying to commit me, I hit up a Facebook group made for uber loyal TJ’s Moms like me. I posted about the juice that I had found and spontaneously mixed with some rosé after a hard day of Momming. The response was tremendous! People from all over the country chimed in about their favorite ways to use this insanely delicious nectar.

So, I drew some inspiration from my fellow TJ fanatics. I am dedicating a post to the three most delicious Watermelon Cucumber juice recipes I could come up with based on the group members’ awesome ideas. We’ve got a delicious drink, a fresh appetizer (yes, an app!), and a perfect summer-time dessert. Thanks again for the inspiration, ladies, and be sure to follow along for more!

 

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Super Summer Spritzer  – The perfect drink to serve at a summer BBQ!

  • 2 cups chardonnay of your choice
  • 2 cups of rose of your choice
  • 2 cups TJ’s Watermelon Cucumber Juice*
  • 1 cup lime flavored sparkling water
  • juice yielded from half a lime
  • chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

Mix non-carbonated liquid ingredients well then stir in sparkling water. Layer fruit and ice in glasses prepared to serve, then pour in liquid. Do not muddle. Serve immediately and enjoy!

*If you prefer a sweeter drink, add more juice! Also, if you prefer different wines, a prosecco would work lovely. Moscato (or those that are inherently sweeter) may make the drink too sweet… unless you don’t believe in such a thing!

 

 

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Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Summer Gazpacho – The perfect sweet, savory, and spicy kickstart to any meal!

Topped with a delicious basil oil:

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Blend ingredients and set aside – don’t forget! This stuff makes the dish!

Gazpacho Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped cored tomatoes
  • 1 pound coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
  • 3 cups large-dice crustless day-old sourdough
  • 1 1/2 cup TJ’s Watermelon & Cucumber juice
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon TJ’s Chili Lime Seasoning

Mix ingredients and allow them to sit for about fifteen minutes. Then, toss them in a blender incrementally until desired consistency. Top with basil oil. Serve cold!*

*Recommended serving: rim bowl with Trader Joe’s chili lime seasoning to ensure everyone will be licking their bowls clean!

 

 

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Homemade Watermelon Jell-O – Incredibly simple, yet very elegant*

  • 1 3/4 cups Watermelon Cucumber Juice, divided into two containers (1/4 cup and 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup boiled water
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • Chunks of diced watermelon (optional)

*Serving suggestion includes basil leaves and whipped cream

(“Blooming” directions taken from Detoxinista.com)

To begin, you’ll want to “bloom” the gelatin in a bit of cool or room-temperature fruit juice, to ensure a smooth and even end result. In a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle the tablespoon of gelatin over 1/4 cup of the fruit juice and whisk well until the mixture starts to thicken.

Once the mixture is nice and thick, pour the 1/4 cup of hot (just boiled) water over it, and whisk well to dissolve evenly. When the mixture is smooth, add in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of fruit juice, and mix well to combine.

Pour the mixture into small, single serving containers and place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours. Top with two basil leaves and whipped cream, serve to the most delighted eaters ever!

Mermaid Merriment

My eldest will be celebrating her fourth birthday soon, and accordingly, she has been planning her party for a couple months (she’s so my daughter). We’ve been throwing around theme ideas for a while, but can never get farther than her current obsession: mermaids!

Thus, I’ve been spying adorable projects for Charlotte’s party like a hawk, leaving no blog unread and no DIY tutorial unwatched. And when I noticed Maria Provenzano‘s adorable Sand Castle Cake on Home and Family, I knew I had found the perfect centerpiece for my little mermaid princess’s shell-ebration! Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s full of delicious chocolate and coconut, too. Yum! Below are the instructions (as provided by Maria Provenzano), as well as a tutorial video as seen on Home and Family.

By the way, beyond the chocolate-y deliciousness of this cake, I now have a bigger budget for other party stuff – like this amazing Mermaid Tail or this gorgeous stand-in Photo Booth backdrop! We are in beach heaven over here!

SandCastle

Ingredients
  • Chocolate Cake; I used 2 8 inch rounds for this specific cake
  • 5 icecream cones with flat bottoms
  • Buttercream Icing:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter; room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 2-5- tablespoons whole milk; room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sand
  • 2 cups ground graham crackers
  • 2 cups coconut, toasted and finely ground
  • White Candy Coating Chocolate
  • Candy Seashell mold
Instructions
  1. Buttercream Icing:
  2. Beat the butter until it becomes light
  3. Add in the powdered sugar and slowly begin to mix together
  4. Add in the vanilla extract
  5. With the mixer running (stand mixer or hand mixer works) add in a couple tablespoons of room temperature milk; add more if the frosting is too thick; you are looking for it to be spreadable and smooth
  6. For the “sand”
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degree
  8. Place the coconut onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread it out so it is in an even layer
  9. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly toasted, and the color of sand you are looking for
  10. Allow to cool
  11. Place the graham crackers and the cooled toasted coconut into a food processor and process until it looks like sand!
  12. White Chocolate Seashells:
  13. Place the white candy coating chocolate in a bowl over a pot with simmering water, being sure the water isn’t touching the bowl
  14. Stir frequently until the chocolate has melted
  15. Pour the chocolate into the clean candy molds
  16. Tap on the counter to help the chocolate spread throughout the mold
  17. Place in the fridge to harden
  18. Once hardened, the chocolate can be removed from the mold
  19. For the Cake
  20. Place the cake on a cake stand
  21. Apply the “crumb coat” which is a single layer of icing to hold down any crumbs
  22. Place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes
  23. Take the cake out, and immediately apply another clean layer of icing, smoothing it out with an off-set spatula to make it look clean
  24. Use your hands to apply the “sand” around the sides of the cake
  25. Cover the ice-cream cones with frosting, and coat them with sand
  26. Place the ice-cream cones around the top of the cake
  27. Cover the top of the cake that is still showing frosting with the “sand”
  28. Place the white chocolate seashells around the cake as desired

Check out the video for full instructions and a step-by-step tutorial!