No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cinnamon and Caramel Swirl

Around this time last year, I dreamed about creating a pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon and caramel swirl. The days quickly turned into weeks, however, and I never got around to it. Soon Thanksgiving had come and gone, and the opportunity seemed lost.

I kept it in mind for this year, however, so I decided to try my hand at at it this month, and my family and I are equally delighted with the results.

This no-bake cheesecake is a luscious, elegant dessert worthy to be part of your Thanksgiving or a fall potluck or get together. Creamy, sweet pumpkin combines with morsels of warm cinnamon and swirls of creamy caramel in this rich dessert. The best part? It is so easy to make! If you want to make a dessert that requires minimal effort yet is sure to impress, then give this one a try! And as always, leave a comment in the comments section if you make it to let me know what you think!

NO BAKE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH CINNAMON AND CARAMEL SWIRL

Ingredients

  • 2 sleeves graham crackers (18 full graham crackers, equal to 3 cups finely crushed)
  • 2 T Saigon cinnamon, divided (or your preference of cinnamon)
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1 c butter, melted
  • 2/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar, divided
  • 1 c caramel sauce, store bought or homemade
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 2/3 c powdered sugar
  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

Spray a springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Crush the graham crackers in segments in a sealed plastic freezer bag using a rolling pin or drinking glass. Place the crumbs in a mixing bowl and stir in 1 T cinnamon and salt, then add the melted butter and stir until combined. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture, then press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the spring form pan, pressing the edges up the side by a half inch. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

In the meantime, prepare the cinnamon swirl mixture. Add the remaining tablespoon of cinnamon and ½ c brown sugar to the remaining graham cracker crumb mixture and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream until peaks start to form, then add the powdered sugar and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, ½ c brown sugar, and vanilla, then add the whipping cream to the pumpkin mixture and mix until combined.

To assemble the cheesecake, spread 1/3 c of the caramel sauce over the center of the crust, then spread a half of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over it. Add 6 spoonfuls of the cinnamon swirl mixture and caramel sauce to the top of the cheesecake mixture, alternating between the two, then use a butter knife and carefully slice through the cake to create swirls with the cinnamon mixture and caramel sauce. Next, spread the rest of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over it, then drizzle the remaining 1/3 c caramel sauce over the top and slice through the top half again to form different patterns with the sauce. Spoon the remaining cinnamon mixture around the edges of the cheesecake to create a border. Chill 3-4 hours or until set before serving. Enjoy!

Zesty Italian Potato Salad

My mom flew into town during the Fourth of July weekend, so my younger sister texted me (instead of her) for her potato salad recipe—the one we enjoyed so much growing up. I found it, snapped a picture, and sent it to her by text. The incident made me remember my own version of potato salad, however—one that I had made for JJ and me a number of times when we were first married.

 I hadn’t made it for a couple of years, but I had potatoes and some other ingredients on hand, so I bought the few remaining ingredients needed and went about making this delightful, tangy dish.

This potato salad is different than others in that it doesn’t use mayonnaise as its base. It uses zesty Italian dressing instead, which is why I gave it its name. That’s not the only ingredient that makes it different, however. This mouth-watering summer side dish is a delightful combination of soft potatoes and carrots with chewy hard-boiled egg, crunchy celery bits, tangy banana peppers, and salty green olives (or black olives, if preferred). Add a hint of spice with jalapeño peppers, if desired, and some sunflowers seeds for an extra bit of crunch. It’s a dish that is bursting with flavor in every bite and sure to impress a crowd. Want to take things up a notch? Turn this side into a potato salad bar, leaving the zesty Italian-seasoned potatoes and carrots in a large serving bowl with all the other ingredients in smaller serving bowls so that each individual can personalize his or her serving. It will be a sure crowd-pleaser at the next summer party for all ages to enjoy.

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe for this festive potato salad. And as always, let me know if you make this dish and what you think!

ZESTY ITALIAN POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs potatoes (about 6 potatoes)
  • 5 medium carrots (about 1 ½ c)
  • 1 ½ c zesty Italian dressing
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped (about ½ c)
  • ½ c green olives, cut in half
  • ½ c banana peppers
  • ¼ c to ½ c pickled jalapeños (optional)
  • Sunflower seeds (optional)

Instructions:

Peel the potatoes and carrots and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a pot of lightly salted water and boil for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. Strain the carrots and potatoes and set aside for 10-15 minutes to cool slightly. Once cooled, pour the dressing over the potatoes and carrots and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, then add the eggs, celery, olives, banana peppers, and jalapeños (if using). Sprinkle a teaspoon of sunflower seeds over each individual serving, if desired, and enjoy! Makes 6 servings.

Frozen Watermelon Lemonade

I thought I was so clever when I first “created” this recipe. It came about when I discovered a plump, ripe watermelon sitting on my counter after a 4th of July potluck I had hosted the day before.

My younger sister, who was also my roommate at the time, came home later that day from a trip out of town and realized my predicament. I don’t like watermelon. Fortunately, she does. She cut up the juicy fruit and enjoyed some, and then she decided to freeze the rest so that we could figure out what to do with what remained.

A few days later, we still had some lemonade in the refrigerator from the party, so I decided to blend some of the then-frozen watermelon with the juice on a whim. I figured I might be able to consume the watermelon in that manner and avoid wasting it in the end.

Fortunately, the watermelon lemonade combination was fantastic! It was refreshing, tangy, and sweet, and I found myself making more with the remaining frozen watermelon soon after and then making it in the summertime in the years to follow.

Years later, when my older brother and his family came to visit my family and me, I decided to make them this special “creation” and impress them with my culinary skills. I quickly discovered, however, that they had been making a version of this lemonade for years themselves! Since then, I’ve seen this recipe pop up quite a bit online as well.

All that to say, I may need to consider quoting Ecclesiastes 1:9 in all of my recipe blogposts from now on—the verse that reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. 😊

This recipe may not be new, but it is definitely the perfect summer drink, so if you haven’t tried it for yourself, here’s an updated version of what I made so many years ago. Also, be sure to check out my Spiced Lemonade recipe, found here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2021/05/16/spiced-lemonade/. And as always, please let me know what you think of these recipes if you try them. I would love to hear from you!

FROZEN WATERMELON LEMONADE

Ingredients:

  • 3 large lemons, juice of (slightly over ½ cup)
  • 4 c frozen watermelon*
  • 1/3 c monk fruit in the raw (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 c water

Instructions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy! Makes 3-4 cups.

*When freezing watermelon, I suggest cutting the fruit into cubes and freezing it in smaller, one-cup portions in sealed sandwich bags. This will make it easier to fit into the blender when it comes time to make the lemonade.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken Enchilada Casserole

My family and I love tortilla chips but never tend to finish eating an entire bag. The bottom of each bag is inevitably filled with crumbled up chips that are hard to grab or dip into salsa (which is a must with tortilla chips!), so we set the unfinished bag aside and opt for a new bag with perfectly triangular chips.

The problem, as silly as it may sound, is that these bags tend to accumulate in our pantry over time since I hate to waste food. Ironically, most times these unfinished bags go stale, so then I end up throwing them out anyway.

Recently, I decided I wanted to find a way to use these crumbled up chips so that they wouldn’t go to waste. Thus, I present to you slow cooker Tex-Mex Chicken Enchilada Casserole!

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now, and my family really enjoys it. It’s nutritious, delicious, and easy to make. You can serve it over rice, potatoes, or simply as is, and it makes for a wonderful meal after church or on those busy days when you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the kitchen. So, without further ado, I leave you with the recipe for Tex-Mex Chicken Enchilada Casserole, and, as always, please leave a comment if you make this meal to let me know how it turned out for you!

SLOW COOKER TEX-MEX CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 1/2 t taco seasoning
  • 28 oz can green enchilada sauce
  • 5-7 sweet peppers (or red bell pepper, if preferred), cut into slices
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2 c crushed/broken tortilla chips
  • 1 c shredded cheese of choice (I used a blend of Monterey, Cheddar, and Asadero)

Optional toppings: shredded lettuce, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños, black olives, salsa, additional crushed tortilla chips.

Instructions:

Add the flour and taco seasoning to a freezer bag, seal, and shake to combine. Add the chicken to the bag, then reseal and shake together until the chicken is evenly coated.  Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, then cook the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side until the chicken is browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and add 2 cups of the enchilada sauce to cover it. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until the chicken is cooked through. Shred or break the chicken into smaller pieces as desired, then add the peppers and mushrooms. Spread the crushed tortilla chips over the surface of the chicken mixture, cover with the remaining enchilada sauce, then cover the mixture with cheese. Cook for an additional 30-45 minutes on high or until the cheese is melted. Enjoy over rice or potatoes, if desired, and any additional toppings of your choice.

Tip: The tortilla chips will soften in the crockpot. If you desire to have a crunchier chip, use them as the base of your casserole instead of the rice or potatoes, or simply add them to the top of the mixture along with any additional toppings.

Spiced Lemonade

Tangy, fresh lemons blend together with golden honey and sweet cinnamon to make a refreshing twist to a classic, summer drink.

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, it’s the perfect time of year to drink fresh lemonade. This recipe is one I created years ago, when I was teaching ESL at the Spanish speaking seminary. I’m not sure what inspired me to add a cinnamon stick to the mixture other than the fact that I really like cinnamon—both for its taste and health benefits. That, and a friend of mine used to put a cinnamon stick in her iced tea when she brewed it, and I found the cinnamon to make her tea incredibly delicious.

Regardless of whatever the exact reason was, I’m glad I thought to do it. The tartness of the lemon juice blended together with honey, sweet cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla is the perfect blend. You’ll find yourself wanting to make this drink over and over again.

SPICED LEMONADE

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 c water, divided
  • 1/3 c honey (or sweetener of choice, to taste)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ c fresh squeezed lemon juice (around 2-3 large lemons)

Instructions:

Heat two cups water and honey over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the honey dissolves. Add the vanilla, cinnamon stick, and fresh squeezed lemon juice and simmer on low for five minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for ten to twenty minutes, then place in the refrigerator and chill overnight, or a minimum of six hours (this will allow the cinnamon flavor to really infuse itself into the drink). Add the additional 1 ½ cups water before serving, stir, and serve over ice. Makes 3-4 servings.

NOTE: This lemonade tastes tart before fully chilled but will become sweeter once cold.

Take Me to the Tropics Cake

JJ and I celebrated five years of marriage over the weekend, and I decided to create a cake reminiscent of our honeymoon trip to the beach at that time. Unfortunately, the cake pictured above was not JJ’s favorite (I probably shouldn’t be admitting that, right?). My son and I loved it, however, and a good friend of mine graciously taste-tested a piece and really enjoyed it as well, so I’m sharing the recipe with you all anyway.

This dessert is undeniably tropical in taste, where fluffy coconut cake combines with tangy, mango lime sauce topped with creamy white chocolate mascarpone. I went the extra mile and toasted some shredded coconut for the sides of our cake and also dried some pineapple slices to look like flowers on top. It took a lot of work, but I was very pleased with the end result. This cake would look just as beautiful, however, with dried/fresh mango slices, nuts, or white chocolate shavings. A fuller list of ideas is included below.

The mango lime sauce does not thicken significantly, so the assembly for this cake can be a bit tricky. Some tips are included below in the “assembly” section to address this issue. Alternatively, this cake could be baked as a sheet pan poke cake, with the mango lime filling used to fill in the holes. Or, to keep the fluffy texture of the cake and its distinct flavors, cut the cake into individual or bite-sized pieces, then spoon the mango lime mixture over each serving, topping each one with a dollop of white chocolate mascarpone (JJ absolutely loved the dessert like this, which I was able to make from some extra cake we had). For this last option, I suggest storing the cake in an airtight container at room temperature to maintain its freshness longer. All other forms should be stored in the refrigerator.

However you decide to make this cake, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have and that it will transport your taste buds to the tropics with each bite.

TAKE ME TO THE TROPICS CAKE

Coconut Cake:

  • 1 c milk, room temperature
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • ½ c cake flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ c butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c granulated sugar
  • 2 t coconut extract
  • ½ c canned coconut milk
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c shredded coconut

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix the milk and white vinegar together (or substitute the milk and vinegar for buttermilk at room temperature). Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with oil, then dust each with flour, removing any excess flour from the pans.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and coconut extract together with an electric mixer, then add the coconut milk until well combined. Next, incorporate the egg whites slowly while continuing to beat the mixture with the mixer. Once combined, add the flour mixture and milk in segments until well incorporated, then fold in the shredded coconut.

Bake for 27-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool before removing from the cake pans.

Mango Lime Filling:

  • 2 large mangoes (I used Ataulfo variety)
  • 2 large limes, juice of
  • ¼ c sugar
  • ¼ c canned coconut milk
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 T water

Instructions:

Blend the mangoes, lime juice, sugar, and coconut milk together in a high-powered blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat over the stove on medium low heat. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and water together until smooth. Once combined, slowly add the sauce to the mango mixture, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture over the stove for 3-5 minutes, until heated through, then let cool slightly before transferring to a storage container. Chill for two hours, or until cold.

TIP: My friend suggested putting some lime zest in this filling to really bring out the lime flavor. I have yet to make it like this but imagine it would be tasty. Feel free to try this option, if you desire.

White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 4 oz. white chocolate baking bar*
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 2 T powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla

Instructions:

Break the white chocolate into pieces and heat over the stove on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, beat together the whipping cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until the whipping cream begins to stiffen and form peaks. In a separate bowl, beat together the mascarpone, white chocolate, and vanilla, then add the whipping cream mixture and beat with the electric mixer until well incorporated.

*You can use 4 oz. white chocolate chips instead. However, make sure you buy a brand that does not include oil among the ingredients. This will cause the chocolate to harden and form little clumps throughout the frosting.

Optional Toppings:

Dried/fresh mango or pineapple, shredded toasted/untoasted coconut, macadamia nuts, and/or white chocolate shavings.

To Assemble the Cake:

Cut each cake in half horizontally to form four smaller cake rounds. Set the first cake round on a plate/cake platter, then pipe a line of frosting around the edge. This will help to keep the filling inside the cake. Cover the middle of the cake with the mango lime filling, then place the next cake round on top. Repeat until the last cake round is placed on the cake, then frost the cake with the remaining frosting.

TIP: I found the cake to be a bit difficult to frost at first. If this is a problem for you, I suggest placing the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the filling and frosting around the edge to slightly harden, which will in turn make the cake easier to frost. While chilling the cake, allow the remaining frosting to sit at room temperature so that it will be more easily spreadable. Stirring the frosting thoroughly will also help to soften it.

Lastly, garnish the cake with any optional toppings you desire and enjoy immediately! You deserve it after all that work! 😊 Store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

Mini Rosemary Mint Frittatas

There’s a story behind this recipe. I created it (in frying-pan form) when I was teaching English as a Second Language at a Spanish speaking seminary. I was suffering from severe medical problems at the time and submitted a prayer request to the school bulletin regarding them.

Soon the entire campus knew about my health issues, and although I was a little embarrassed by all the attention, I was very appreciative of the concern that my English students showed me. One older woman in particular, whose husband was a gastroenterologist, handed me a bunch of freshly cut mint from her garden one day, explaining that mint was good for the digestive tract.

I took the mint home that afternoon with good intentions of using it but with little imagination on how to do so other than making mint tea. It sat in my refrigerator for several days until I realized that I better use it quickly if I didn’t want it to spoil.

Since I was already making an egg frittata for breakfast that morning, I decided to add a small handful of mint to the egg, spinach, salt, and pepper mixture waiting to go onto the stove. I also added some fresh rosemary on impulse since my rosemary plant was on the decline (I really hate to waste things).

After cooking the egg mixture, I served it on a plate, ready to scarf it down as quickly and tastelessly as possible. I needed the health benefits from each ingredient, but I couldn’t imagine possibly enjoying this concoction.

Well, let me tell you, I was wrong! It was love at first bite! I savored each morsel and even made it a few more times that very week.

Since I was single at the time, I only ever made one serving of it. Since I wanted to share this recipe with you all, however, I tried my hand at turning it into mini egg frittatas this week, and I must say, I love the end result!

These frittatas are a delectable combination of slightly spicy, refreshing mint blended together with the woodsy warmth of rosemary and a hint of salt. Due to their elegant appearance and individual size, they would make the perfect addition to a holiday brunch or a special occasion breakfast. They are gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian, so they can additionally be enjoyed by individuals with varying diets.

 I realize that it may require some bravery (or just some digestive issues) for you to make this dish. Nonetheless, I hope you’ll give it a try and discover just how delicious it is!

MINI ROSEMARY MINT FRITTATAS

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ c packed spinach
  • ½ inch fresh rosemary sprig (about ½ t chopped)
  • 12-15 fresh mint leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/8 t salt)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously spray six muffin cups of a muffin tin with the cooking spray and set aside. Finely chop the mint, rosemary, and spinach, discarding the spinach stems. Add the eggs to a mixing bowl, then add the chopped ingredients alongside the salt and pepper, whisking with a fork. Once combined, divide the egg mixture into the six muffin cups, then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the egg is cooked through. Allow to cool slightly for five minutes, then gently pull each frittata out of the muffin tin with a butter knife or fork and enjoy.

Makes 6 servings

Cinnamon Strawberry Compote

Tangy and sweet with a hint of spicy warmth, this strawberry sauce makes for a special, winter treat.

In need of a special, last-minute Valentine’s Day dessert? This cinnamon strawberry compote would make an elegant addition to any store-bought cheesecake, ice cream, or angel food cake. Or make an extra special breakfast that day by topping waffles, pancakes, or toast with this rich, red sauce.

This compote combines the fresh and tangy taste of strawberries and freshly squeezed lemon juice with the sweetness of sugar and a hint of spice and warmth from cinnamon and cloves, making this sauce a special winter treat. The ingredients blend beautifully over the stove in a matter of minutes and can be served hot, or can be placed in the fridge for a few hours to be served chilled. It’s entirely up to you. Either way, this compote is good, and you’ll find yourself wanting to make it over and over again!

So, if you need a quick recipe, here you go! And as Valentine’s Day approaches, let us remember to love well and to love deeply, just as God loves us.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

CINNAMON STRAWBERRY COMPOTE

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz strawberries, diced
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice of (divided)
  • 1 ½ t cinnamon
  • ¼ t cloves (scant teaspoon)
  • 2 T cornstarch

Directions:

Mix the diced strawberries, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice together and simmer over medium heat for five to seven minutes, stirring often. Stir in the cinnamon and cloves and place on low heat for one more minute. Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch into the remaining lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, until combined. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the strawberry sauce while stirring constantly. Once combined, remove from heat and serve or let chill. Enjoy!

Argentina-Style Empanadas

Crispy, savory pastry meets seasoned, slightly sweet beef in this dish, with extra bursts of sweetness from the raisins throughout, and a surprise bite of hard-boiled egg and a tangy green olive.

Several months after JJ and I got married, we had the opportunity to visit his parents in the hometown where he grew up. Other than wanting to spend quality time with his immediate and extended family, we didn’t have a lot of expectations for our visit. We did have one main goal, however—to learn how to make empanadas from JJ’s father.

JJ and I had very distinct reasons as to why we wanted to learn, although equally as strong desires. For JJ, it was a beloved dish reminiscent of special moments throughout his childhood. I wanted to learn, on the other hand, because making authentic empanadas from my Argentine father-in-law was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Although JJ’s father was not too excited about the long, laborious process of teaching us how to make this main course, he conceded to our request, and we were soon learning how to make this tasty dish.

The empanadas that JJ and I formed that day were nothing near lovely, but they were delicious. Enough so, in fact, that JJ and I decided to try our hand at them again for our first Christmas together as a married couple several months later. JJ pulled up the short clips he had recorded from our empanada-making session with his dad, and I got out my notes with rough estimates of each ingredient used.

 It was quite the process for us to form and fry the empanadas, but several hours later, we had a heaping bowl full of these tasty, golden treats, and our tradition of making empanadas during the Christmas season began.

Since learning how to make empanadas, I have noticed that there are other Argentine empanada recipes online. Some are similar to the ones that we make with a few additional ingredients, and some are different altogether. Nonetheless, the recipe below is what JJ’s father taught us, and it is the one that we love and that we will pass on to our son as he grows. We hope it will stay in the family for many generations to come.

If you make these empanadas, please let me know how they turn out. I hope you like them as much as my family and I do. Who knows? Perhaps they will even become a new family tradition of your own.

ARGENTINA-STYLE EMPANADAS

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 ½ t paprika
1 t crushed red pepper 
1½ T taco seasoning mix
1 to 1 ½ T sugar, according to desired sweetness
1/3 c raisins
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into small cubes (around 12-15 pieces per egg)
Small jar green olives (one green olive per empanada)
2 packages Discos Goya*(thawed in refrigerator overnight)
Oil for frying

Instructions:

Brown the beef and drain its grease.  Return to low heat and add the paprika, crushed red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and sugar and mix well. Stir in the raisins and remove from heat. Place a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture into the middle of the disco Goya. Add a piece of hard-boiled egg and one olive to each, then fold the dough in half. Make a crease along the opened end, then pinch the dough along the crease line to ensure complete closure of the empanada.

Heat up enough oil in a frying pan for the empanadas to float above the bottom of the pan. Flip each empanada after 30-60 seconds, or once the side submerged in oil is golden. Fry the other side until golden, then place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow to cool slightly. Makes 20 empanadas.

NOTES: If you are not familiar with discos Goya, I recommend searching for them in the frozen section of ethnic food at your local Walmart. If you do not have a local Walmart and/or simply do not have access to discos Goya where you live, the following website provides a fairly simple recipe for making them: https://www.laylita.com/recipes/how-to-make-empanada-dough/. Please keep in mind, however, that I cannot attest to the taste of these discos nor their similarity to discos Goya since I have always been fortunate enough to find discos Goya at the store.

To make a healthier version of this dish, use lean ground beef, lightly brush the dough with oil, and bake until golden.

Almond Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, the cookies that I entered in a Christmas cookie contest back in October didn’t win, and although I am not altogether surprised, I am a bit disappointed. I had grand dreams of becoming the Christmas cookie champion of 2020 (that’s what I would have called myself, at least) and claiming the cash prize. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that I could not have posted the recipe on this blog had I won the contest, and I really wanted to share it with you all, so I’m grateful for that chance. The opportunity to do so is a prize in and of itself.

Although my recipe did not win, these cookies are award-worthy in my book, and my husband thinks so too. Loaded with cherries and chocolate with a hint of almond, they are the perfect blend of sweet and soft that will have you coming back for more. They are seriously addictive, and I’m pretty sure you’ll think so too!

With Christmas just around the corner, these would make a great dessert for a Christmas party or family gathering. The only downside to making them is that the cherries will temporarily leave your fingers red if you dice them by hand. At the same time, your guests won’t be able to deny that you made this delicious treat. You can even tell them that they caught you “red-handed.” 😊

After thumbing through recipes online recently, I realized that my creation is not so unique after all. The chocolate-cherry combination has been done before, and I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of that sooner, but finding these similar recipes has reminded me of the truth found in Ecclesiastes all the more:

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Although my recipe is nothing new after all, this is my take on the cherry-chocolate combo, with the additional almond extract that most recipes I’ve seen have lacked.

If you make them, please leave a comment and let me know! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does! Now let’s get to baking!

ALMOND CHERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • ½ c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 t salt 1/2 t baking soda
  • 12 oz jar maraschino cherries, drained and diced (around 3/4 c diced cherries)
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350o F. Mix the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth, then blend in the almond extract and egg. Add the maraschino cherries and stir by hand.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add to the wet ingredients and stir together. Add the chocolate chips and mix until well incorporated.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for fifteen minutes. Makes 20-24 cookies.