Month: November 2015 (page 1 of 2)

In The Kitchen: Cookie Butter Cheesecake

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On a recent short and sweet getaway to Vegas, at my favorite restaurant there, the SW Steakhouse, we all shared the cookie butter cheesecake for dessert and it was amazing, down to the last bite of that crumbling, buttery crust.  I vowed to recreate it as soon as we got back and by sheer luck, my mother-in-law came across a similar recipe sponsored by PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese in a magazine ad on her plane ride home.  I adapted the found recipe by adding even more cookies for a thicker crust and by using a little bit of butter  and cooking it slightly to help combine the crumbs.  And by adding a heaping of melted cookie butter swirl on top of the cheesecake before placing it in the oven.  I also increased the time needed for the cake to set and also to refrigerate as I found it helped the overall consistency of the cheesecake.

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Ingredients:

  • 36 Biscoff Lotus European-style cookies, divided
  • 4 packages (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 large brown eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup Biscoff Lotus European-style cookie butter PLUS 3/4 heaping cup Biscoff Lotus European-style cookie butter

AND one 9-inch spring form pan

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Instructions:

  1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Reserve 6 cookies.  Finely crush the remaining 30 cookies, mix with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.  Lightly grease the sides of the spring form pan.
  2. Place the pan with the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool.
  3. Beat the cream cheese, sugars, vanilla and spices in a large bowl with an electric mixer until blended.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each, just until blended.  Pour mixture over crust.
  4. Melt the 3/4 cup cookie butter in a microwave or on the stove-top in a double broiler until heated through and a bit runny.  Pour the melted cookie butter evenly on the cheesecake and using a skewer or a knife, swirl the sauce into the cheesecake.
  5. Bake for one hour or until the center is almost set.  Run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Cool the cake before removing from the rim and let set either inside the oven with the heat turned off and the oven door left slightly open OR on the counter-top for at least one hour before moving to the fridge.
  6. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  7. Crush the remaining six cookies, coarsely and sprinkle over top the cheesecake right before serving.
  8. Melt the 1/4 cup cookie butter in a microwave or on the stove-top in a double broiler until heated through.  Stir and drizzle over cheesecake.

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{Additional Tips}:

  • Top with homemade whipped cream and add a dash of cinnamon to the whipped topping for extra flavor.
  • Fill a separate baking pan or oven-safe dish with a half an inch-one inch of water and place on the lower oven rack, below where your spring form pan will go.  This will help keep the cake moist and prevent it from cracking so much.

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Enjoy!

xo gina

Holiday Wishlist 2015

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends and are able to take the day to relax and unwind after way too much good food, wine, and company.  With all of the black Friday deals and promotions on everyone’s mind, I chose to escape the mad rush at the stores today and have been making a mental wishlist instead.  Here is a peek at some of my most coveted wishlist items for this holiday season.

holiday wishlist 2015{Top Row, Left to Right}:

1.  The prettiest lace top for every occasion.

2.  Over-the-knee boot sensation.

3.  Fun print on a classic cross-body style bag.

{Bottom Left}:

4.  Waterproof wellies for the wettest days.

{Far Right, Clockwise from Top Left}:

5.  Mix metals with this dainty ring.

6.  Comfortable kicks for every day.

7.  Wrap-around, lace-up heels for holiday parties and date night.

8.  Detailed topstitching and gold hardware in a neutral hue.

Stay tuned for more holiday gift guides coming this month!

xo gina

Chocolatey Dark Chocolate Chunk Banana Ice Cream

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This chocolatey dark chocolate chunk banana ice cream is healthy while still as decadent as it sounds and uses only a few ingredients.  My toddler has been extremely picky when it comes to breakfast lately, so I am always looking for fun ways to serve up something nutritious to start her day.  I stumbled across a recipe for breakfast banana bread ice cream sundaes in my searches on the blog, Top with Cinnamon by Izy Hossack, and altered it a bit, leaving out the cinnamon that the food blogger adds to hers and including the cocoa powder she suggests, but didn’t put in her instructions.  I also folded in some chopped up dark chocolate and topped the finished recipe with a handful of chocolate pieces as well.  While I think I would leave out the cocoa powder when whipping this up for breakfast, it made for a great mid-day snack and a perfect companion for our freezer when late nights always seem call for something sweet.  It also sparked my breakfast creativity and helped me come up with some other great frozen concoctions I have planned to try this week.

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{Ingredients and instructions found on Top with Cinnamon and altered slightly}

Ingredients:
  • 3 ripe bananas (that have been peeled and frozen)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 of a giant Hershey’s special dark bar, chopped (reserve a handful for topping)

Optional Toppings:

  • handful of unsalted almonds, chopped
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Instructions:
  1. Break the frozen bananas in half and place with the rest of the ingredients, except for the dark chocolate chunks!, into a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy (you’ll have to scrape down the edges of the food processor every few minutes).
  3. Fold in the dark chocolate pieces.
  4. Transfer to a covered container and freeze for at about 2 hours.
  5. Top with remaining dark chocolate chunks and chopped almonds.

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Enjoy!

xo gina 

My Life Lately {As Told Through Photos}

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There are a few points on the calendar that I use as markers for when time directly following that will fly faster than the norm, like the fourth of July, the start of the school-year, the fall and winter holidays that fall in rapid succession like dominos and propel us even further into the next coming year.  And my favorite stand-by to help slow things down a little bit is to travel to the furthest tip out east with my family.  So, that’s exactly what we did just in time before the holiday whirlwind begins back home.  Here are a few photos from my life lately and our last-minute, short and sweet getaway in the Hamptons.

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My girls.

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The quiet days out east are the best.

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My first lady.

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This building is beautiful enough and then add the vintage car and the wine barrel and it’s just striking.

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Running free.

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Mornings with these two.

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Always exploring.

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Daddy’s girls.

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Play-time by the vines.

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This is happiness.

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xo gina 

Picnic In The Park Third Birthday Party {Celebrating Emma Rose}

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Three is awesome.  Or it looks like it is going to be.  Either way, it is off to a great start.  Emma is her own person right now, making decisions about what she wants to be for Halloween, eat for breakfast and wear to school.  This also means that now there is more room for disagreement, more stand-offs in the parking lot of the art museum when sliding down the enormous art sculpture tops her priority list and heading home to give her and her sister a nap tops mine.  She tells us in length what went on at the playground and who joined her in the castle at the top of the slide, and which toy she spent the most time on, who pushed who, and who said they were ‘sorry.’  She goes on and on about dance class, making sure to include every detail, and rehearse every song, and attempt to mimic the steps they learned that day.  She talks to us about the things and people she looks forward to.  She imagines.  She pretends.  We are literally watching her learn to love life.  And it is awesome.  For her third birthday we had a small picnic in the park with a few of her friends and I can honestly say, she never looked happier.  It was the perfect celebration for a pretty perfect little girl.

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I took lunch orders the week before from each of the guests and packed each girl their own boxed lunch for the afternoon.  I poured pink lemonade in acrylic mason jars with lids and tucked a personalized bracelet in every box for all of her friends.

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Every box included a cup of fresh cut fruit, a yogurt, and a pre-packaged set of utensils from one of my favorite party supply shops, Shop Sweet Lulu.  I used a mirrored tray from our home in the center of the table as well as jars and vases we had lying around that were filled with pretty flowers from the grocery store.

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We stacked four wooden pallets, two on top of each other, next to another two on top of each other, to make a table for the girls that would be the perfect height for them to sit on pillows and enjoy their picnic.

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The pillows were a mix from Urban Outfitters, Target, One Kings Lane, and from our home.

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The guest of honor sporting her current favorite color, purple.

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I made this four-layer cake, taking a shortcut by using boxed yellow cake.  I whipped up fresh cream with berries the morning of the party and layered the whipped topping between each layer of cake.  A few drops of red and blue food coloring added to white cookie icing was poured on top of the cake and garnished with flowers from our kitchen.  These apple cider donut holes from Montclair Bread Co. and the colorful macaroons from Asalt & Buttery were so delicious, neither lasted long.

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The assorted sandwiches from Fresco Market & Catering were for the adults and parents at the party and the silverware, plates and napkins were easy to reach, so everyone there could serve themselves.

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I made Emma and her friends a second cake that was a little bit sweeter, another four-layers of boxed cake mix with food coloring to give the cake a lavender shade, and vanilla buttercream between each layer.  The outside of the cake was topped with vanilla buttercream, too, with swirls of purple icing and a gold glitter candle for the birthday girl to blow out.

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My Favorite Party Details From This Picnic in the Park Celebration:

  • The gold, mirrored bar cart
  • The naked cake with fresh whipped cream and berries
  • The wooden pallet picnic table for the kids
  • and MORE!

Vendors:

Stylist:  Pumpkin + Rose

Photos:  Pumpkin + Rose:

Catering: Fresco Market & Catering

Gold, Mirrored Bar Cart: Pumpkin + Rose

Picnic Boxes: Shop Sweet Lulu

Napkins: Shop Sweet Lulu

Utensils: Shop Sweet Lulu

Paper Plates: Shop Sweet Lulu 

Paper Straws: Shop Sweet Lulu

Melamine Round Dessert Plates: Shop Sweet Lulu

Cake stands: Pumpkin + Rose

Cakes: Emma’s mommy 🙂

Wooden pallet picnic table: Pumpkin + Rose

White and Gold Tassel Garland: Glam Fete

Gold ‘3’ Balloon: Party City

Gold Serving Platters: Home Goods

Flowers: Whole Foods

Fabric Tent: Pumpkin + Rose

Gold Mirror Tray: Pumpkin + Rose

 

Assorted Pillows: Pumpkin + Rose, Urban Outfitters, Target, One Kings Lane

*All Pumpkin + Rose items are available for rental in the NJ/NYC tri-state area*

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xo gina

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