pumpkin cheesecake.

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I wish I had a better photo of this deliciousness, but daylight savings and night baking means this is the best I can do. I first made this for a thanksgiving potluck at work and it turned out to be a hit with my co-workers, so it was my thanksgiving dessert as well. It is REALLY REALLY good! It’s crazy how it really does taste like cheesecake, without there being any kind of “cheese” in there! This may sound like it’s labor intensive, but really you just throw everything into the vitamix and go. It’s made from things I normally have on hand as well – Definitely a crowd pleaser and may just be my thanksgiving tradition for years to come.

The recipe is from the ppk and can be found here.

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups of finely ground graham crackers or gingersnaps
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted non-hydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil, or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy or almond milk.

Filling:
1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about half of 1 medium-sized banana)
1 12 to 14 oz package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine *or* coconut oil
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the oil or melted margarine.

Use a spoon to blend the mixture thoroughly to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the soy milk and stir again to form a crumbly dough.

Pour the crumbs into the pan. Press firmly into the bottom. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool a bit before filling. Keep oven on 350 to bake the cheesecake.

Make the topping:
In a mixing bowl use a fork to mash together brown sugar, margarine, and salt until crumbly, then fold in the chopped nuts and stir to coat the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the filling:
Drain the cashews and place in a blender with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain, a food processor or strong blender should be able to get the job done.

Set aside 1/2 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it into the crust. Randomly spoon dollops of the reserved batter onto the cheesecake. Poke the end of a chopstick into a batter blob and gently swirl to create a marble pattern; repeat with the remaining dollops.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove cheesecake halfway through baking and sprinkle on the topping. Return to oven to continue baking. Cheesecake will be done when the top is lightly puffed and the edges of the cake are golden. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a rack for about 20 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or even better if overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

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beet smoothie.

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I’ve been in a bit of a smoothie conundrum lately – making the same old smoothies day after day. But today I decided to mix it up a bit, after seeing this show up in my pinterest feed yesterday.

We have some beets leftover from our garden harvest and I’ve been contemplating what to do with them. I’m not sure why I didnt think to put them in a smoothie?! Probably because I didn’t think they would taste good.  I was wrong.

I didn’t have everything in the recipe, so I took the liberty to sub my own things and I came up with something I definitely dont want to forget. Its packed with hidden gems, which was great for milo (he drank the whole smoothie this morning), and it was a nice change of pace from my normal smoothie routine.  Will definitely be adding these to my mix!

1 1/2 cups almond milk
1-2 small beets (you dont have to peel them, but clean them well)
1 apple
1-2 handfuls of spinach
1 frozen bananaabout
6 or so strawberries (mine were frozen)
1 Tbs peanut butter

Blend well, and enjoy!

bathroom update.

Next up: the bathroom. After a week of taking showers at the gym, we finally have ours back, and better than ever.

We only have one full bathroom in this house, and its small. It was somewhat updated before we moved in, but it just wasn’t my taste. And I know this might seem wierd, but I felt like it was someone else’s bathroom. And that kind of grossed me out. It definitely felt lived in a little bit and most importantly, I really wanted those shower doors gone.  It felt cramped enough in there- those doors were NOT helping that. Since the whole room was tiled (?!), it meant when we pulled off the doors, it would leave marks in the tile. And if we replaced the mirror, cabinet or the vanity, same problem. So it was my dream to completely change this bathroom if I could ever find someone who can do it within our budget. After a few quotes, I found that person.

Then it was time to put my vision in motion.  After trips to multiple stores and hours scouring the internet and pinning things on pinterest, I was ready to make it all come to life. It’s always fun to dream, but once that dream becomes a reality – the biggest reality sits in: BUDGET. But we somehow made this work and I’m very pleased with the new bathroom! The only thing we kept is the tub and the toilet. The rest went bye-bye!

Here is the old bathroom.

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Here are some work in progress shots…

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I’m in love with the floor tile! It came from menards of all places. It ended up costing about $50 total! Definitely a good find. When the time comes to finally redo our basement I may consider that tile!

The wall tile came from builddirect.com. I really wanted that aqua blue glass subway tile. It is NOT easy to come by. It sells for about $9-15 sq/foot. Ouch.  But I found it for a little cheaper at build direct, and let me tell you – they were great to work with. Shipping was really expensive, since they are out of canada and tile is heavy – but they gave me the option to pick it up at their distribution center in Des Plaines, and that cut shipping in half! All was good, except for the part where we ran out of tile…but luckily, thanks to an amazing home depot employee, we found two more sheets of the tile BURIED on a shelf that did the trick.

One hiccup in the planning process was the vanity. Trying to find something that was modern, affordable and not a piece of crap wasn’t easy to come by. We found something we KIND of liked at menards, but it was on the expensive side, and why pay that much for something you only KIND of like?! Thats where my awesome friend Jesse came to the rescue.  He builds cabinets and agreed to design and build our cabinet within our budget. (he built us our amazing kitchen table!) And I have to say, this looks better than any vanity we saw in any of the stores!

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By reconfiguring the door and drawers (we had two doors vs. the door and drawers now) we were able to get rid of the little cabinet that was above the toilet before. (less stuff makes it feel like we have a little more room in the tiny bathroom!) We moved the stuff that was in there into these drawers and we still have room under the sink for what was under the sink before.

And heres the grand reveal!

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So much better! Not having shower doors makes a world of a difference in there. It feels so much less clausterphobic. I’m much much happier! If we are going to have to live with one tiny bathroom, might as well make it nice in there!

family room update.

I have been lacking in posts….but for good measure! My house has finally taking some revamping projects. We did two back to back projects – First up: the family room.

Remember all that wood trim in there?

7373499554_6be8155502_bSay goodbye!
We had the room painted – (sandstone by Sherwin williams) and the trim painted white. And those 18 foot ceilings got a new coat of paint too….So much more refreshing, right?! It’s crazy what a new coat of paint can do!!

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We also got rid of the track lighting that was over the kitchen table, and replaced it with this light. We actually have another one on order, due to arrive in a few weeks. I think two will balance it out better and bring a little more light into the room. Fab.com gave me a $15 credit, so i bought a second Tim Jaroz metal print, and finally hung those! Perfect timing Fab.com!

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And we got a new light fixture for the main part of the room. Previously, there was nothing there, and we were just waiting for the right fixture to come along. I really wasn’t in any hurry. We were torn between a light and a ceiling fan (I’m not much of a fan, but maybe for the RIGHT ceiling fan I’d be game?). Well the decision was made for us, when I got this light fixture at my neighbor’s garage sale for….$20!

IMG_3415 IMG_3416IMG_3412So whats next…

I need some new window treatments on the patio doors. The ones on there are off-white honeycomb blinds, so they look a little bit off. Considering getting all white ones, or possibly some bamboo shades. Opinions??  The ones I really want are below, but at $177 a pop, not sure thats ever going to be in my budget for FOUR doors….I’m also considering painting the doors a teal blue color, inspired by the one below. But since I have FOUR doors, not sure if this would be overkill….What do you think? we also have gross big gold doorknobs that I really want to replace, but don’t see this being in the budget anytime soon. Also the hinges are also gold, so even if I replace the door knobs, what do I do about those bright gold hinges? Can they be spraypainted silver? Is that even possible? For now its staying how it is…but its definitely on my wish list!
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I’m still on the hunt for the perfect rug as well. I think I really want something black and white or  basic and solid, maybe shaggy? but I keep leaning towards these busy. colorful rugs. Size is a huge factor. And most of what I see is online I’m scared to make such a purchase without seeing it in person. Itll be free to ship, but return shipping is on me in most cases…eeek!

I would love to find something black and white like on the left possibly (that one doesnt come in my size, and its out of my price range)….but the one on the right has caught my eye and could possibly be fun. I’m also scared of making such a big commitment to something and then getting sick of it in a few years…I want something that I’m 100 percent sure of! a 9×12 rug is not only kind of hard to come by that is both what I like, and affordable. (under $1000! and thats still alot, which is why this probably isnt happening anytime soon…but if you see something tell me!)
rugsI really think this is my DREAM RUG though! wowza!

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Anyway, thats where we stand with the family room for now. I’m much much happier now that we said goodbye to the wood trim, and made some little improvements. I really want to work on retiling the fireplace and getting a proper mantel next in there – but that may have to wait until next year sometime –

Next up – Ill show you our transformed bathroom!

veggie pot pie.

potpie

Its definitely starting to feel more like winter in chicago, than fall, which is leaving me craving warm, comforting foods. Pot Pie was definitely on the brain. I searched the internet for some recipes, and then combined a few to make something that worked for us, and was simply delicious. I opted for a thick biscuit crust on top, rather than a flaky pie crust, to make it healthier, and it did the trick. Delicious!

8 ounces super or extra firm tofu
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 celery rib, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Russet potato, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Salt and pepper

For the crust:
1 ¾ cups unbleached or whole wheat pastry four
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
2 Tbs. earth balance
¾ cup plain soy milk mixed with 3/4 tspn apple cider vinegar

For the Filling

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Cut tofu into 1/3-inch dice and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid of excess water.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook tofu until golden on all, or most, sides. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in the same skillet. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent.

Add potato to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not mushy.

Add flour, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce to the skillet and stir into the vegetables.

Add vegetable broth and stir until combined, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add tofu, green beans, peas, sage, and thyme and stir until combined.

Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour into pie crust and prepare your biscuit topping.

In large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter or margarine into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. In measuring cup, combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Add liquid to flour mixture, stirring with a fork to form a stiff dough. Add more soymilk if dough is too dry. Knead lightly in bowl, 3 to 5 minutes, until dough is no longer sticky. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll out into shape to cover casserole dish or cut into wedges.

Lay biscuit topping lightly over filling. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

pumpkin biscoff cookies.

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As if pumpkin oatmeal cookies werent enough…I found a way to make them better. This recipe, which adds biscoff spread (or Trader Joes Cookie butter).
I brought these to work and they were gone in no time.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons earth balance at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup Biscoff Spread, or Trader Joe’s cookie butter
1 1/2 tspn egg replacer, mixed with 2 T warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the earth balance and sugars. Beat until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and Biscoff spread and mix until combined. Add the egg replacer and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Stir in the oats.

5. Form the cookie dough into rounded tablespoons and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden and just firm around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack.