Highland Springs Ranch Lavender Cheesecake

lavenderbannerEvery year, for about 5 weeks, at the Highland Springs Ranch in Cherry Valley, California, one of the best smelling, and best tasting, festivals takes place on the largest organic lavender farm in Southern California.

During the Annual Lavender Celebration, guests can tour 20 acres of the grounds in hay filled, horse drawn wagons sipping on lavender lemonade or licking creamy lavender ice cream cones.  There’s an organic marketplace to buy lavender infused honey, balsamic vinegar, essential oils, fresh lavender bouquets, plants and even lavender-stuffed toys.  There’s an oil distilling demonstration and plenty of fun activities for the kids, but, more than anything, it’s the food people come to sample.

Although The Ranch Restaurant closed in 2018, my favorite festival treat is still their Lavender Cheesecake with a crust made from homemade graham crackers.  It’s #ToDieFor but it takes some time to prepare (much of which is chilling time), so don’t plan to make this as a last minute treat.  Thanks to Betsy Andrews at Eating Well Magazine, I can make this treat at home anytime I want to!

Highland Springs Ranch Lavender Cheesecake

  • 6 TBLS Unsalted Butter, softenedHSRanchLavenderCheesecake
  • 2 TBLS Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBLS Granulated Sugar
  • 2 TBLS Honey
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1+1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1+1/2 TBLS Light Olive Oil or Canola Oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Combine butter, brown sugar and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add honey and ¼ teaspoon vanilla; mix until combined. Add flour and ¼ teaspoon salt; mix until combined. Form the dough into quarter-size chunks, about ½-inch thick, on the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and firm around the edges, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer the crust pieces on the parchment to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until finely ground
  4. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Mix the crust crumbs with oil in a medium bowl; press into the bottom and about 1½ inches up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:

  • 3 – 8 ounce packages reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 TBLS Ground Lavender
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs, room temperature
  • 1 TBLS Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  1. To prepare filling: Put a tea kettle of water on to boil for the water bath. Combine cream cheese, sugar, lavender and salt in the stand mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add lemon juice and vanilla; mix until combined.
  2. Tightly wrap the outside of the pan, bottom and sides, with heavy-duty foil. Pour the filling into the crust. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch up the side of the springform pan to create a hot water bath. Carefully transfer the roasting pan to the center of the oven. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but the center still jiggles slightly, 1 to 1¼ hours.
  3. Let the cheesecake cool in the water bath on a wire rack until the water is room temperature, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the water and remove the foil. Refrigerate, uncovered, until very cold, at least 4 hours.

This cheesecake can be made ahead and kept very cold for 3 days.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Treat Week: Easy Peanut Butter Truffles

My haste to catch up on my #TreatWeek blog posts has me doing #TwoADays, so here’s today’s bonus post: an easy to create peanut butter truffle that lets you bake a quick batch of cookies while the truffle filling is chilling in the refrigerator waiting to be coated.

peanutbuttertruffle

A couple of notes: even a few drops of water can ruin your coating chocolate.  If you are accustomed to using a double boiler to melt your chocolate, there are easier methods to avoid the chance of having water seize up your chocolate.  While I love, and have gotten more than 20 years’ use out of my Calphalon Professional Anodized Aluminum pots and pans, I have begun slowly replacing them with Le Creuset Cast Iron skillets and Dutch ovens.  When doing things like making candy and melting chocolate, as long as I pay attention, I no longer have to use a double boiler because the heat conduction is so much better!

Easy Peanut Butter Truffles

  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 5 oz Can Evaporated Milk
  • 2 Cups Mini Marshmallows
  • 3/4 Cup Creamy Natural (NOT with the oil on top) Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 – 12 oz Bag Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips ( I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • 2 tsp Crisco Solid Shortening

Butter the inside side of a heavy saucepan.  Add sugar, evaporated milk, and the rest of the stick of butter. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture is boiling. Reduce heat to medium; continue at a moderate boil for 12 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Chill for 30 to 45 minutes.

Scoop into 1-inch balls and place onto wax paper lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

Dip balls, one at a time, into melted chocolate.  Set wire rack over the lined baking sheet. Place chocolate covered balls on rack to let chocolate setup. If you want to add crushed peanuts to outer coating, make sure to drop them into the coating while it’s still wet so they stick.  You can also use #CandyMelts to add decorative swirls either before or after the coating sets.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Treat Week: Truffle Tuesday

redwinetruffles

Due to the death of a close friend, this week’s postings got delayed, so, as you can see, Truffle Tuesday turned into Truffle Sunday

Day 2 of #TreatWeek is one of my favorites: #TruffleTuesday.  Or, as my family (& hairdresser) calls it, the day I start making make #BoozeBalls!

The first, and quickest to prepare are my soft centered Red Wine Truffles.  These truffles are only as good as the wine you use to make them, so I always use the last glass of whatever great blend I have open.  This year that meant that the truffles were made with #2013MountVeederReserve.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  This blend worked beautifully with the dark chocolate and made for a decadent treat!  A few important words of advice about these truffles:

  • Make sure you chill your truffle filling for AT LEAST 3 hours so it’s easy to scoop.
  • Freeze your scooped portions for at least 30 minutes & try to make them as close to balls as possible.  These can’t really be rolled.  Mine never look #CandyShopPretty, but they taste good. 😉
  • If your truffle filling is not holding it’s shape; i.e. it’s too thin, don’t worry, HERE IS THE FIX: Return your truffle filling to your pan. Warm it over low heat so that it is easy to stir but not completely liquified. Turn off burner and stir in unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 TBLS at a time, until your filling reaches desired consistency.  You don’t want it too thick, remember it will thicken when it chills in the refrigerator.
  • Melt your coating chocolate while your scoops are in the freezer so your coating has time to cool a bit.
  • If you intend to use the candy melts to decorate the outer/hard layer get it prepared in advance.
  • If you are sprinkling any type of decoration that will stick to the outer coating do it as soon as you coat the individual truffle.  The coating hardens very quickly on the cold truffles.
  • Because of their soft centers, these truffles must be kept refrigerated for best presentation and taste.

Red Wine Truffles

  • 2 – 12 oz bag dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 5 TBLS Good Red Wine – Anything with Malbec, Cab Franc, or that’s BIG and BOLD
  • 2 tsp solid Crisco shortening

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from stove and add 1 bag of the chocolate chips and red wine. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir until everything is fully incorporated and smooth. Remove to a smaller bowl, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Once the truffle filling has chilled, using a cookie scoop or small spoon, scoop out chocolate and form into truffle balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes

While truffles are in the freezer, in a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

Take 6 truffles out of the freezer at a time and pinch them slightly to make sure they form a “truffle like dome” for the top side.  If, when you start working with the chilled truffles, they aren’t holding their shape, or seem to be getting runny really fast, STOP! and see the note in RED above.  If all is well, continue to the next step.

Working quickly, coat bottom of truffles first and place on a plate lined with waxed paper, then, using a spoon, coat the top of each truffle and decorate with red & gold sprinkles if desired.

They dry/harden on top quickly.  Move on to the next 6 and then move the plate to the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Treat Week: Spiced Keto Gingerbread Cookies

KetoGingerbreadMen

I love gingerbread cookies but hate making them.  The dough is a sticky mess and has to be refrigerated for hours and re-rolled before it can be cut and baked.  It’s an all day project that I just don’t want any part of, so I don’t make them.  This Keto recipe changed all of that.  It’s fast and easy, only has to be refrigerated for 30 minutes.  I can do that.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Easy Spiced Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1/4 Cup Butter softened
  • 2 Cups granulated Stevia (like Swerve)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 TBLS Molasses (Use whatever strength you like, or none at all)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 3 TBLS ground Ginger
  • 4 TBLS Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper (optional)
  • 3 Cups Almond Flour (the finer ground the better)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 TBLS Psyllium (helps the cookies stay firm & hold their shape)

In bowl of your stand mixer beat the sugar substitute, butter, molasses, vanilla, and eggs together until fully. Next add all the spices. Finally, add the almond flour, psyllium, baking powder and salt to the mix until just combined. Do not over beat.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin between two sheets of parchment paper.  You want the dough to be somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4″ thick.  Put the dough into the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes before cutting.

Preheat oven to 325°F and remove dough from the refrigerator.  Cut dough using cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Do NOT use parchment paper or any other type of liner.

Bake 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your cookies.  They may not feel like they are done, but they will firm up as they cool.  Leave sitting on the pan for a few minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Decorate with Keto Royal Icing if desired:

  • 4 TBLS Powdered Stevia (like Swerve) + 1 TBLS Water / Heavy Cream or Milk.  I use 1 TBLS Heavy Cream and about 1/2 TBLS of water to thin it down a bit.
  • You can use a decorating bottle or bag fitted with a decorating tip, or a plastic lunch bag with the corner cut off and the decorating tip slipped inside.

Treat Week is Here!

dippedmacaroons2

Christmas is two weeks from tomorrow.  Those words just struck fear into most of the people who read them, me included.  I haven’t gotten my tree yet, very few decorations are out, but all is not complete chaos, I have gotten my baking organized.  Organized, not done. 😉

We’ve all got to get our acts in gear though, it’s time to take treats into the office, get them sent to the kids’ schools, and have them ready for coaches, babysitters, postal carriers, UPS drivers, dry cleaners, house keepers, gardeners, pool cleaners, and the rest of the village we need to show our appreciation to for helping make our lives a little bit easier.

One of my favorite cookies to make is the macaroon.  While many people proclaim themselves #CoconutHaters, I push them out of the way and take the stand that it just leaves #MoreForMe!  I love the big glob of sweet, juicy coconut with the browned bottom and edges, and I don’t skimp when I dip my macaroons in the chocolate either, they get a solid coat!

I’ve tried all the fancy recipes and frankly none are better than the one found on the  #BackOfThePackage of Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut!

CoconutMacaroons

Baker’s Coconut Macaroons

  • 1 – 14 oz pkg Baker’s Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut (5 Cups)
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 6 TBLS Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract

Heat the oven to 325°F then, using butter, lightly grease and flour two cookie sheets.

Put the coconut into a medium mixing bowl and run a large fork through it to separate any clumps.  Sprinkle the sugar over the coconut and mix it in thoroughly, then do the same with the flour and salt.  Using a rubber spatula, mix in the egg whites and almond extract until all is well combined.

Using a tablespoon as a scoop, place 18 loosely packed mounds of the coconut mixture onto each of the cookie sheets.  Do not overload the spoon, roll into balls or pack too tightly.  You want the heat to circulate and get inside so the cookies bake completely without burning underneath.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and you start to see edges crispy brown on some of the pieces on top of the cookies.  Remove from oven and take immediately from the pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.

If you are going to dip in chocolate, it’s easy:  I use milk chocolate chips, but you can use any kind you like, you can even get the dipping chocolate they sell in the fruit department by the bananas and strawberries.  I melt about 1/2 cup at a time in 30 second increments and then dip half the cookie in until it has as much chocolate as I like.  I move the cookies to wax paper to harden.

Store the cookies in a sealed container with wax paper between the layers.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Peanut Buttery Fudge

PBFudgeChunkStackI love Sees® Butterscotch suckers but they do a number on my teeth.  I had an extra bag of butterscotch chips and knew that I couldn’t make straight fudge.  It would be far too sweet.  I played around melting a few chips, threw in some spices & natural peanut butter….and came up with something that almost satisfied my desire for the teeth cracking hard sucker.

A few important things:

  1. Cooking with natural peanut butter (no sugar added) is tricky when you’re making candy.  I didn’t take into consideration the additional oil, and had problems with getting it to set up properly.  After waiting 4 hours for the fudge to set between, I had to re-melt it 3 times before I got the consistency right so it would set up hard enough to not be sticky and cut into squares that would hold their shape.  The peanut butter you use really mattersDo NOT use a natural peanut butter that has to be stirred!
  2. If your marshmallows are not real fresh, add a tablespoon or two of butter to the bottom of your pan to help get the melting process started so they don’t scorch.  Although, I did scorch some of mine and it didn’t hurt the final product.  Just added a little extra nuttiness to the end result.
  3. If you want to save some time, you can substitute a jar of marshmallow cream.  I prefer to use marshmallows when I make fudge, but it’s entirely up to the individual cook.

Peanut Buttery Fudge

  • 2 – 5oz cans evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 TBLS no sugar added natural peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural Creamy)
  • 1- 11 oz bag butterscotch chips
  • 1 Bag Jet Puffed large marshmallows or 1 jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Line an 8 x 8 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, warm the evaporated milk but do not boil.  Add the peanut butter and continue stirring until peanut butter is melted and completely incorporated.  Stir in the pumpkin pie spice.

Add the butterscotch chips and stir until melted.  Don’t worry if you end up with a few unmelted chunks. You have 3 options at this point.  You can either:

  1. In a separate pan, melt your marshmallows with a tablespoon or two of butter (if desired) until almost all the way melted, then add the marshmallows to the peanut butter mixture and stir in the vanilla; or
  2. Turn the heat down to low and stir the marshmallows and vanilla into the peanut butter mixture.  Be patient while incorporating the marshmallows.  You want to make sure you stir continuously so you don’t scorch your fudge.  I use both a silicone whisk and the back of a heat proof rubber spatula to press them against the sides and bottom of the pan as they melt down; or, finally (and quickest)
  3. Turn the heat down to low and stir a jar of marshmallow cream into the peanut butter mixture, until fully incorporated, then add the vanilla.

ButteryFudgeinPan

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and put into the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until fudge is completely set up.  Cut into 1″ chunks.

It’s really rich, so one piece satisfies this girl’s sweet tooth.  The pieces look pretty in a WesterlyChardpaper candy cup and go nicely in hostess gifts, or those you make for friends during the holiday season too!  Make sure that you keep the fudge in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  Unlike chocolate “fantasy fudge” that can be kept in a cool place, the oily content of the peanut butter requires that it be refrigerated.  Not that it’s likely to last very long. 😉

I love to have a piece with a nice cold glass of #WesterlyWines Bentrock Chardonnay.  The fudge brings out the butterscotch notes in the wine beautifully and makes for a really nice pre or post dinner treat.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Keto Friendly Appetizers That’ll Please the Whole Crowd

Spinach-Stuffed-MushroomsTo serve appetizers or not on Thanksgiving is always one of my biggest questions.  I don’t want to have people be so stuffed they don’t eat the main meal, but I don’t want to have people complaining if things get delayed, as always seems to happen.

The problem with appetizers is twofold: if someone else brings them they bring way too many, and if I do them it’s something else I have to do while also cooking the meal.  Then there is the dietary debate…who eats how, etc.  The beauty of these Keto appetizers is that they will appeal to everyone (give or take) in the crowd when a couple of them are paired with a simple cheese and/or veggie tray and that should be just enough to keep the troops happy until the main event.

These could also be great side dish options.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20 – 30 white mushrooms or baby bellas

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and mix well. Stir in spinach.  Spoon filling into the mushrooms and place in a buttered baking dish.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft.

Parmesan Crusted Crushed TurnipsParmesan-Crusted-Smashed-Turnips

  • 12 small to medium turnips, peeled
  • 3 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1+1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
  • finely chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place peeled turnips in pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and cool slightly.

Place the turnips on a clean, lint-free, dish towel on your work surface.  Using a spatula or other large utensil, press down on each turnip until they are all about 1/2″ thick.  Let them drain for 10-15 minutes then flip over to a dry part of the towel and let the other side dry.

Combine olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Brush both sides of each turnip with the oil mixture, press each side of each turnip into the Parmesan cheese, and place each turnip on a baking sheet.

Bake 20 minutes then flip each turnip over and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes until they’re nice and golden brown.  Garnish with fresh chives.  Serve with sour cream if desired. #ThisGirlLovesToEat