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

The Wonders of Keto Cocktails

Woman (and) man cannot live on low carb food alone!  This woman needs, what my daddy used to call, a 5 O’Clocker when the stressful day is through.  Be it a lovely glass of red wine, a bubbly glass of Champagne, or a down and dirty cocktail, there is just something comforting about that time when I finally get to sit and pet my labs while I throw off the stresses and worries of the day.

vanillaoldfashioned

Thankfully, there’s no reason I have to ruin my diet while doing so.  There are no carbs in a 1+1/2 ounce pour of straight spirits like whiskey, rum, and vodka; a 5 ounce glass of red wine has 2.5 grams of carbs, and the drinks below, adapted from Lowcarb-ology, have 0-3 grams of carbs, so those of us who actively participate in the #KetoLifestyle can imbibe guiltlessly, as long as we also remember that frequent consumption of alcohol while dieting can stall weight loss (if that is our goal).

Vanilla Old Fashioned

  • 1″ piece of orange peel
  • 1″ vanilla bean, split in half
  • 2 ounces good quality bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark/Maker’s 46)
  • 1 tsp sugar free vanilla syrup (I use Torani)
  • Club Soda or Zevia sparkling water mandarin orange (I get it at Whole Foods) – optional

Rub the inner part of the orange peel around the inside and rim of the glass, then muddle the peel and vanilla bean at the bottom of the glass.

Add the bourbon and vanilla syrup.  Stir, add a single globe or block cube of ice (for slow melting) & top with an ounce of club soda (give a quick stir) if desired.  130 Calories / 0 Carbs

Arctic Mulearcticmule

  • 1 ounce Pineapple Vodka (I like Skyy Infusions Pineapple)
  • 2 ounces Vodka (Grey Goose is my preference)
  • 1 drop peppermint oil (it needs to be for ingestion) or 1 ounce sugar free Torani peppermint syrup (optional but for the minty taste, you need one or the other)
  • 1-2 drops blue food color or, if you have it, you can use blue zero calorie water enhancing drops like Zio blue
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 6 ounces sugar free ginger beer (I like 0 carb/0 calorie Zevia – I found it on Amazon)

Add all ingredients, except the ginger beer) to a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled.  Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, top with ginger beer and garnish with a wedge of lime & sprig of peppermint.  194 Calories / 0 Carbs

And, as always, my #MomReminder, anyone who drinks alcoholic beverages please do so responsibly.  Always designate a sober driver, pre-schedule the very inexpensive option of Uber or take a taxi. #DontDrinkAndDrive.

Low-Carb Coconut Macaroons

I’m a total carb girl, which is why I need to go Keto occasionally to make my jeans less tight, but my carbs of choice trend toward the savory: breads, chips, and salty snacks.  But, even a #SaltyGirl needs something sweet & #KetoFriendly once in a while. 😉 #ThisGirlLovesToEat

coconutmacaroons

Chocolate Drizzled Low-Carb Coconut Macaroons

  • 2 Large Egg Whites (Cold)
  • 1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Stevia Sweetener (like Swerve)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Cups (loosely packed) Baker’s Sweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar Free Chocolate Chips (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1/2 tsp Crisco Solid Shortening

**Note – Because the coconut is sweetened, you can cut the amount of the sweetener down to 1 or 2 TBLS.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add your egg whites and lemon juice to your stand mixer bowl (with the wire whip attached).  Beat the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.  Make sure you beat the whites until they barely move in the bowl if you shake it – it makes a difference in the end result of your cookies.  Gradually add the sweetener, sea salt, and vanilla while continuing to beat at medium-high speed.

Gently fold in the coconut a little bit at a time.  Be careful not to break down the whites, you want a fluffy batter. Caution: Your cookies will spread out if you break down your egg whites too much.  They’ll taste the same but be flatter and take less time to cook.

Use a medium (About 1 TBLS) cookie scoop to drop the batter onto the lined pan.  I got 15 cookies from my mixture.

Baker for 20 minutes, or until a nice golden brown around the edges and tops of the cookies.  Remove from the oven and leave sitting on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes then move to wire rack to cool.

Melt chocolate chips (with the shortening) in a small bowl or mug in the microwave, in increments of 30 seconds on high until smooth enough to drizzle.  I use a fork to drizzle lightly across the cookies then move them to a plate to finish cooling in the refrigerator so the chocolate is completely set before serving.

Cookies can be stored in a sealed container on a cool counter for a few days, the refrigerator (if they last) for about 10 days, and can be frozen for longer term storage.

Nutrition Information Per Cookie:

  • Calories   –  65
  • Fat   –  3.75 g
  • Sat Fat   –  2.93 g
  • Sodium   –  31.33 mg
  • Carbs   –  2.66 g
  • Protein   –  .53 g

Chocolate Cheesecake Fat Bombs

chocolatecreamcheeseI am a Keto believer, but I have paid little attention to the addition of the fat bombs, touted by Keto experts as a necessity, thinking of them instead as desserts I didn’t need.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Scientists say that, no matter what diet plan you follow, at least 20% of our calories should be from #GoodFats.

  • We need fats to absorb fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E & K
  • Research suggests that monounsaturated fats (from avocados, peanuts & olives) can lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol
  • Fats take longer to digest, keep blood sugar levels stable, and help us to feel fuller for longer.

While I have lost all of the weight I wanted to initially, and quicker than I thought I would, as I came up on my goal weight I realized that I was starting to lose some of my hard earned muscle tone.  If I was burning so much fat with Keto, how was this possible?  Turns out I was wrong about that as well.  Without adding the required amount of fat to my diet, when my body ran out of fat to burn it was turning to sugars/carbs, of which there are few in a Keto diet, and once those are depleted what’s left to burn?  Muscle!  The same applies to those on any other type of carbohydrate restricted diet, like Atkins.  So, this is me jumping on the #FatBombBandWagon!

Chocolate Cheesecake Fat Bombs

  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 2 oz Confectioners (Powdered) Stevia (Erythritol / Swerve)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 7 oz Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 5 oz Sugar Free Chocolate

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments until smooth when stirred.  Set aside.  Place the softened cream cheese in a bowl, mix on medium speed until smooth.  Add powdered Stevia and Vanilla.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Add the heavy cream.  Mix on medium speed until smooth and beginning to thicken.  Add the melted chocolate and continue mixing on medium speed, until all ingredients are completely combined and the mixture is firm enough to spoon or pipe into small/mini paper lined mini muffin pans or prepared silicone candy molds.  Once all of the liners are filled, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.  The longer they chill the better.  Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and freeze for up to 3 months.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Keto Chocolate Fudge Mug Cake

Because woman cannot live on “healthy” food alone and must have the occasional chocolate evening treat with her #KetoAllowed glass of red wine:

Keto Chocolate Fudge Mug Cake

  • 1 TBLS butter
  • 1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 TBLS hot water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 TBLS cocoa powder
  • 1 TBLS coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg

Add one tablespooon of butter into mug, microwave for 10 seconds until melted. Add one teaspoon of instant coffee/water mix, stir well. Add one tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt, 1 beaten egg. Mix very well. Add sweetener of choice. I use 1 to 2 drops liquid Stevia. Adjust sweetener +/- before you cook.

Cook in the Microwave for about 60 seconds, do not overcook.

Remove cake from microwave to cool.

To make fudge sauce, combine 1-2 tsp unsweetened cocoa and 1 TBLS water in a ramekin. Mix in 1-2 drops Stevia if desired to sweeten. Warm in microwave 15-30 seconds.

Loosen cake from mug and invert into plate. Pour chocolate sauce over the top. Serve with a few blueberries or raspberries if desired.

#ThisGirlLovesToEat

Treat Week: Toasted Pecan Turtles

pecanturtles

We’re in the home stretch of #TreatWeek.  Under a week to go and houses in #EveryTownUSA smell of sweet things destined for sharing with friends and family alike.

Except for the old standbys of fudge and truffles, I usually shy away from making candy, but this year I got coaxed into making turtles, after seeing how ridiculously expensive they were to buy so few in the stores.  Admittedly, I cheated by not making my caramel from scratch, but if it all tastes good in the end, does it matter?  Considering the amount of time it saved me, I’m thinking nope!

Toasted Pecan Turtles

  • 12 oz Pecan Halves
  • 1 – 11 oz Bag Individually Wrapped Caramels (I used Kraft)
  • 2 TBLS Water
  • 1+1/2 – 12 oz Bags Milk Chocolate Chips (I prefer Ghirardelli, but had Nestle’ on hand and the candies tasted just as good)
  • 3 tsp Crisco Solid Shortening

In preheated 350°F oven, on an ungreased baking sheet, toast a pecans in a single layer for 8+1/2 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately move nuts to a bowl so they stay warm while you’re working with them.

In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips together with the shortening in 30 second intervals until you have a nice, not too thick consistency.

Line 3 baking sheets with waxed paper.  Using a fork, dip into the chocolate and make a 1 – 1+1/2″ thin circle on the waxed paper.  Fan out 3 or 4 pecans in a Y or X pattern.  You want the chocolate to hold the pecans in place and act as a landing spot for any caramel that may spill over in the next step.  Continue until your pans are full or you run out of big enough pieces of pecan to work with.

While the chocolate and pecans start to set up, unwrap all of the caramels and put them into a 1 qt saucepan with the water.  Heat over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted.

Using a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, quickly spoon the caramel over the pecan clusters, making sure caramel is touching each of the pecans.

Rewarm chocolate to thin it again, then spoon a small amount on top of each layer of caramel. Put sheets into the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or until hardened.  If space is an issue, use a cooling rack between sheets so you can stack them.  #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