Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strawberry and Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Dessert

I am just a little excited to share this recipe with you today for a couple of reasons.

1. It was my sweet husband's birthday "cake" on his birthday a few weeks ago, and
2. This recipe is my own creation!!! It is probably the first recipe that I invented completely on my own, with inspiration from several sources.  I even searched google but I did not find a recipe that was exactly like this.  So this is a ONE AND ONLY recipe! And it is SO, SO good!

So here's how I was inspired: My husband loves the strawberry "cheesequake" blizzards from Dairy Queen but always complains how there are not enough cheesecake bites in the ice cream.  So when I asked him a few weeks before his birthday what kind of cake or dessert he wanted me to make for him, he suggested "strawberry cheesequake blizzards." HA.  Well I got to thinking- what if I could have strawberry cheesecake ice cream, but add in chunks of real cheesecake, layer it with strawberry sauce on top of a graham cracker crust and then top with a layer of cool whip and garnish with crushed graham crackers? And that is how the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Pie was born! Or at least in my head :)

So I originally intended on making homemade ice cream but I ran out of time.  I had some pretty good substitutes:

I made two batches: one with Blue Bell's Strawberries and Homemade Vanilla ice cream, and one with  Kroger's "Private Selection" New York Style Cherry Cheesecake ice cream that I got at Fry's.  I unfortunately could not find a strawberry cheesecake ice cream! But, these substitutes were AWESOME.

So, for the cheesecake bites, I did a couple of things.  I first bought a frozen Sara Lee's cheesecake, intending to cut it into chunks.  UNTIL a couple days later I saw these at Walmart! Sara Lee cheesecake BITES!!! I bought two containers, one Original and one flavored Strawberry Cheesecake! How perfect! And these little babies are delicious! They are so dang good.  When I make this again, I think I will only buy these.

So here is where I am making it, and I have just topped the ice cream layer with cheesecake bites, strawberry sauce and graham cracker crumbs. Mmm :)
Here is it finished.  Doesn't look too impressive from the top.... but when you cut a piece...

It's beautiful!!! And SO good! My husband loved, loved his birthday "cake." Both flavors were very, very good but overall I think we liked the cherry cheesecake kind better.  It tasted more "cheesecakey."  We had a TON of leftovers but it sure enough got eaten over the course of a week or two... :)
Strawberry and Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Dessert
Yields: one 9x13 pan

1 half gallon strawberry (or cherry) cheesecake ice cream
2 containers of Sara Lee cheesecake bites in original or strawberry cheesecake flavor (or 1/2 frozen cheesecake cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
3 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 small container Cool Whip
Optional: Strawberry sauce (see recipe below)

Prepare oven to 375 degrees F.  Take ice cream out of freezer to soften. To make graham cracker crust, blend 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in large bowl.  Press mixture firmly into a 9x13 pan.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Let cool.  

When crust is cool, make sure ice cream is soft enough to spread.  If it's not, microwave for about 30 second intervals, stirring in-between to get it nice and smooth.  Once it's ready, let the layering begin!
Layer half of the cheesecake bites, strawberry sauce and one-third of graham cracker crumbs over the cooled crust.  Then, spread half of the ice cream over the top.  Repeat process, with cheesecake, graham crackers and sauce, then the rest of the ice cream. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze for about an hour.  After an hour, take out and spread Cool Whip over top. (This is done so that it is easier to spread the Cool Whip rather than spreading it while the ice cream is very melty).  Finish by sprinkling remaining graham cracker crumbs on the top.  Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours more, or until completely frozen.

When ready to serve, let it sit out for about 15 minutes, allowing it to soften a bit.  And enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef-Tortellini Soup

I am seriously in love with my slow cooker/crock pot (whatever you want to call it- I use both names.  Just whatever I feel like, mostly).  It is absolutely PERFECT on the busiest of days when you have about .552 seconds to make dinner.  Well hopefully you have more time than that, but you won't need much more ;)

I kinda cheated on this recipe because I didn't have celery (that wasn't wilted) or a can of green beans.  But even without those key ingredients, this soup was awesome! Perfect for the cooling weather. (I know, it was only what like 99 degrees today! Woo-hoo!)

My husband said he "liked it a lot" which really does indeed say a lot because he is usually a man of few words when it comes to food.  Usually I'll ask him if he likes what I made, secretly trying to get as much description out of him as possible but realistically knowing that that will never ever happen, and I'll usually get "It's good." if he likes it, "it's really good" if he loves it (I think that's a word for love?) and "It's not my favorite thing you've made" if he doesn't love it.  But being the wonderful husband he is, he will still eat it all and usually even eat seconds.  Man I just love husbands and their non-picky appetites! (Usually!)

Slow-Cooker Beef Tortellini Soup
from Pillsbury

Prep Time: 20 Min
Total Time: 8 Hr 45 Min
Makes: 6 servings

1 lb beef stew meat
1 large onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 large carrot, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (10 1/2 oz each) condensed beef consommé or beef broth
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 cups frozen cheese-filled tortellini (I used spinach-ricotta filled from Trader Joe's)
1 cup frozen cut green beans (I'm sure you could substitute a can of green beans just perfectly)
1. In 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker, add beef, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, sugar, tomatoes and beef consomm√© in order listed. 
2. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours. (I did not have this much time so I did the first two hours on low then the last 3 on high. You could probably do 4-5 hours on high instead, also)
3 About 25 minutes before serving, stir in basil, frozen tortellini and green beans. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook about 25 minutes or until beans are tender.
Nutritional Information: 1 Serving= 320 calories, 12g fat 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken & Veggie Stir-Fry

I am seriously head-over-heels for Fall! It makes me so happy and if I had all the time in the world, I would spend a lot more of it in the kitchen making yummy fall treats and delicious food.  Oh, and it would all be calorie-free in my perfect world! ;)

There are so many yummy treats that I have bookmarked to make this fall/October/Halloween and I have no idea how I will find the time to make them all! But alas... I will do it! I have already made a couple DELICIOUS fall treats that I will post soon.  Seriously amazing... one has to do with pumpkin and the other has to do with apple.... shhh!

Anyway,  I absolutely LOVE this chicken and veggie stir-fry recipe for many reasons.

1. It is incredibly easy.
2. It is incredibly versatile.  You can add pretty much any veggies that you want.
3. It is incredibly delicious! My husband and I really, really enjoy this.
4. It is healthy! Lean protein matched with a plethora of vegetables and served over rice (to make it even healthier, use whole grain, brown rice- that's what I did and it was awesome.)

Perfect family meal for a busy weeknight!

Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry
recipe and photo from

1 lb. chicken cut into strips
1/2 onion cut into strips
1-2 carrots cut into slices
1 red and yellow bell pepper
1 8 oz. can mushrooms
1 head broccoli
1-2 stalks celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce (iheartnaptime recommends Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce but I used Safeway brand teriyaki sauce and it was fine)
Any extra veggies you want to add
1 cup rice

Heat a little olive oil in large Wok or frying pan.  Place chicken and all prepared veggies pan and cook over medium heat.  After a couple of minutes, pour sauce in and cook for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until chicken is done.  Serve over rice.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn

Happy first day of Autumn! Fall is probably my favorite season, next to Christmas (yes I do call Christmas a season... :) ) I just love it when the air cools down and everyone seems to be so happy because the holidays are nearing! So fun!  Too bad I am now permanently in Arizona so I can't experience the pretty fall leaves like I was so privileged to see when I went to school in Utah. :( But it's okay... 

I am seriously SO happy that it is Halloween time and that I can start baking yummy treats! I have already busted out the canned pumpkin....I made delicious pumpkin whoopie pies... recipe to come soon!! SO I thought I had already posted this recipe but to my surprise, I have not!  Popcorn is such a yummy fall treat and even though this is peanut butter, not caramel popcorn, this is a WINNER recipe! And it could be made any time of the year! It is so decadent and rich and, of course, calorie free. :) This is an easy "transitional" recipe into fall baking- because let's face it: we still have three full months left of official fall/holiday baking. So excited!!

Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn
Recipe by Our Best Bites

2 bags of Simply Salted (or similar- try to choose butter-free) popcorn (or about 20 cups of popped popcorn)
2 c. honey roasted peanuts
3 c. peanut butter chips (I used Reese’s)*
2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips *
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or oil

Place the peanuts and popped popcorn in a very large bowl. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and vegetable oil or shortening and heat for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted peanut butter chips over the popcorn and peanuts and toss to combine.
Spread the popcorn onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. In a Ziploc bag, heat the semi-sweet chocolate chips until just melted and smooth (about 1-1 1/2 minutes, mashing the bag every 20-30 seconds). Cut a small corner in the Ziploc bag and drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn. Allow to stand long enough to become solid (you can transfer the pan to the fridge or freezer to hurry this step along). When done, break the popcorn into small pieces and enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate Lover's Dream Cookies

If you're thinking what I'm thinking... then you're thinking that if you have some chocolate, why not have a lot of chocolate? Right? Or am I the only one who justifies this? These cute little plump cookies are anything but dainty and pack an intense, chocolatey, fudgey punch.  If you're anything like me, you will LOVE them!

The recipe calls for chocolate and white chocolate chips but since I did not have white chocolate chips, I used some peanut butter chips.  You can use whatever you have in your pantry, too!
15 15 30 Chocolate Lover's Dream Cookies
from Taste of Home cookbook
Yields: 42 servings

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup white baking chips
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

  • In a large bowl, beat the oil, butter and sugars until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder; gradually add to oil mixture and mix well. Stir in chips.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool for 1 minute before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

 Nutritional Information: 112 calories per cookie and 6g fat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizzas

These grilled chicken Margherita pizzas are made using tortillas and they are awesome!!! There is so much flavor and both my husband and I thought they were so yummy and that these could go on our "list" of favorite meals.  Mm-mm!!

Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizzas
from Eat Better America

Prep Time: 35 min
Start to Finish: 35 min
makes: 4 pizzas
1/2  tablespoon olive oil
1clove garlic, finely chopped
2boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 8 oz) (or pre-cooked grilled chicken slices like Tyson's)
1/2teaspoon seasoned salt
4flour tortillas (8 inch) (recommend whole-wheat)
1/2cup finely shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 oz)
2plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 10 oz)
1/4cup sliced fresh basil leaves 

Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small bowl, mix oil and garlic. Brush chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon of the oil mixture; sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place on grill over medium-high heat. Cover grill; cook 12 to 18 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F). Reduce heat to medium-low.

On ungreased cookie sheets, place tortillas. Brush with remaining oil mixture. Cut chicken into strips. Arrange chicken strips over tortillas. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Top evenly with tomato slices; sprinkle with remaining cheese and basil.

With wide spatula, carefully slide pizzas onto grill over medium-low heat. Cover grill; cook 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pizzas to avoid hot spots, until cheese is melted and crusts are crisp. Slide pizzas back onto cookie sheets.             

1 pizza= 300 calories

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foster Family Favorite: Chocolate Cherry Cake

Even though I have only a picture of the cake in its entirety, you must trust me that this is a fabulous cake!  It is truly one of my family favorites and is often requested on birthdays!

I made it a little bit ago for my mother-in-law's birthday and it turned out amazing, as always!  It is SO simple to make, very affordable, and delicious! The cherry pie filling makes the cake so moist and the chocolate glaze on top is to die for!  That is my very favorite part... mmm I'm wishing I had some chocolate cherry cake right now!!!

Chocolate Cherry Cake

1 (18.25 oz) package Devil's Food cake mix
1 1/2 cans (21 oz) cherry pie filling (just freeze the extra half of the can and use it as a topping for waffles/pancakes or make another cake!)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Combine cake mix, cherry pie filling and beaten eggs. Mix just until blended (do not overmix or mix too aggressively as cherries will break apart)
2. Bake in well-greased 9x13 pan at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Wait until cake has cooled to make the frosting (you will want to pour frosting over cake immediately after it cooks as it thickens quickly)
4. To make frosting: combine sugar, butter or margarine, and milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth.  Pour over cake immediately and spread to make it even.

From personal experience, this cake is even BETTER when eaten the day after it is baked.  Is is more moist and fudgy! But it is delicious all the same whenever you eat it!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Low-Fat Orange Dream Cheesecake

This chilled cheesecake is definitely still an appropriate treat for Arizona and other warm-even-though-it's almost fall biomes.  Even though I made this about a month ago, I still remember its creamy, orange-y taste and texture that was a perfect after-dinner treat.  One that doesn't leave you feeling guilty, either!

Low-Fat Orange Dream Cheesecake
adapted from Kraft

1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (can do homemade)
2/3 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Orange Flavor Sugar Free Gelatin
1 cup low-fat Cottage Cheese
8 oz. fat-free cream cheese
2 cups thawed Cool Whip Free (or other fat-free) Whipped Topping
 Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Cool 5 min.; pour into blender. Add cottage cheese and cream cheese; blend well. Pour into large bowl. Whisk in Cool Whip. Pour into prepared pan; smooth top.
Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Then serve! Can also freeze this cheesecake, and simply let it thaw for about 10 minutes before eating it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Wow... I have become quite lazy with posting regularly! It's just been crazy around here with trying to keep up school work and working 3 part-time jobs... man it's just a little hectic to say the least.  But that definitely has not stopped me from cooking/baking at every opportunity that I've had!

I thought I would share one last "summer" recipe before the weather starts dropping. It's dropped 10 degrees here already! Oh wait- I live in AZ and it's still in the high 90's.... Anyway there is still an abundance of zucchini out there and this is a great, yummy zucchini bread recipe to try. 

It is a lighter recipe from Gina's Weight Watcher recipes but it is fabulous! Everyone that tried it agreed.  :)

Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
from Skinny Taste

Servings: 16 • Serving Size: 1 slice • Old Points: 3 pts • Points+: 4 pts
Calories: 147.5 • Fat: 4.1 g • Protein: 2.2 g • Carb: 29.9 g • Fiber: 1.7 g  Sugar: 17 g Sodium: 186.5 mg

  • 1 cup all purpose flour 
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat flour would work)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1-1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini (not packed)

Preheat oven to 325°.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well.
Add chocolate chips and gently mix to combine.
In a medium bowl, mix egg, vanilla, melted butter, apple sauce and zucchini. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. 
Pour batter into a large 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let it cool before slicing.
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