This is rich, this is decadent, this is most of my favorite things all in one.  A buttery chocolate cookie crust, a rich cream cheese filling overflowing with dark chocolate and coffee flavor.  All sealed in with a beautiful dark chocolate ganache that has just enough peppermint in it to lift and lighten the whole thing, without sacrificing any of that richness.  Do you know that feeling of warmth you get deep in your chest when you eat something decadently scrumptious?  Maybe not? Well, you will after this cheesecake!

This was my first time making a cheesecake and I wanted something not too sweet.  I found a recipe for a regular cheesecake, then added the chocolate, coffee, and mint ganache- the trifecta of an amazing dessert.  The Three Amigos.  The Three Musketeers.  Each one makes the other better.  Up the sugar or use milk chocolate if you want something sweeter.  This is rich, but not overly sugary.


 To-Do List Library Card- Free Printable Download- would be a fun thing for back to school or even Fall Decor?

I loved having real, tangible cards in library books as a kid.  You'd feel so connected to the other people who took the same journey through the book as you as you read their names and saw the dates stamped haphazardly down the blue lines of the card.  That cozy sort of feeling you got when you saw that Susie checked out the same book in 1955, then again in May of '55, so it must have been good.  They may not even remember that they read that book way back then, so I always felt a little like an archaeologist, digging up memories and experiences long forgotten.  And you can't forget that satisfying dull thump of the stamp on the book when they checked your stack out at the front desk and the chemical smell of wet ink mixed with the warm vanilla of an old book.  Oh, I miss that.  Maybe I was just a weird kid, too.

I recently stumbled into a big box of old library cards, complete with lick and stick sleeves and I couldn't help myself.  Most of them are going into our books at home- I think it would be really nice to "check out" books that we read to have a sort of record of when we read them.  I took a few of them, though, and used them as a handy little to-do list, which I've put up here for you to use.  Just click on the link here to download the card.



This  week has been one of firsts.  I won my first blue ribbon in the food contest at the Iowa State Fair.  I made my very first Croquembouche, and I made my first Mille Crepe.  Sorry that I can't show you what the inside looked like (and it's killing me to not see it either) but I had to present it to the judges whole.  It is so hard to cook for other people and not get to have a bite!  I don't know how professional chefs and bakers do it- I wouldn't have the willpower.  After the 10th Mille Crepe that I didn't get to eat, I'd be found having a breakdown in the walk-in cooler, fistfulls of cake in each hand.

I think I'll have to make another some time soon, just to have the satisfaction of slicing into those 20+ layers of crepe and pastry cream.  
If you want to improve your crepe-making skills and/or want a really fancy-looking dessert, this is the one for you.  I've seen it in various incarnations as matcha green tea and sweet bean to dulce de lece with vanilla, so once you get the hang of making pastry cream and crepes, you can go a little crazy with this one.  I'm thinking this fall might be a good time to try an apple cider one with a crackly candy apple top, or maybe a pumpkin cheesecake one with cardamom and cinnamon.  Oh my, I've got to stop.  


WHITE WINE & PURPLE BASIL REDUCTION- the best ice cream topping for the end of summer- light, herbal, fruity- does it get any better than wine on your ice cream?

This one's for my mom.  About seven years ago, my dad and little sister had the harebrained idea to start making wine.  With those two, I know the conversation went something like: "Hey, Dad! Let's start making wine!" "Sounds good, I'll go plant some grape vines!".  And so, (although I may have taken liberties with the facts here) 99 Bottles Winery was born. 

Although not as initially entertaining as most of their crazy ideas, starting a winery is by far my favorite (and their most successful).  They now bottle around a thousand bottles each year and have weddings and events at the winery, too.  And, let me tell you, my dad's wine making abilities have come a long way since he blew up a bunch of fermenting bottles in his high school closet.  I may be partial, but I think it knocks the socks off of the competition, especially if you like very flavorful, dry or semi-dry wines.  As a former chemistry teacher, he's sort of the Walter White of the wine world- he's good at what he does (minus the medical bills, this endeavor is just for fun).

Now, you're probably wondering how in the world this all relates to my mom.  I may have gotten a little off-topic here and I understand if I lost you back there and you just said "screw it" and scrolled to the recipe section.

My mom likes to have a special treat for guests when they visit the winery for a tasting and a wine sauce drizzled over ice cream is one of them.  I took her idea and tweaked it a bit with the purple basil and honey.  I always use cheap white wine for this, since I think theirs is too good to be used for anything but drinking, but my mom uses their wine for this sometimes and it's amazingly delicious.  I use this recipe for that bottle that you opened and forgot about in the fridge a week ago that's not really pleasant to drink anymore, but you can't bear to waste.


EASY & FANCY SWIRLED ZUCCHINNI TART- looks impressive, but it's oh-so-easy and can be made paleo & gluten-free

Everyone who has a garden knows that excess zucchini is a real (good!) problem.  All winter long, you dream about getting those beautiful green beasts fresh from the garden, then all summer long, you dream of what to do with the mountain of squash that your garden is overproducing.  Before you start to lose friends and people stop answering your calls for fear of you giving them more zucchini, check out this recipe.

As an added perk, it uses quite a few eggs, too.  It's such a good problem to have, but too many eggs is a real one when you have your own laying hens.  We thought five hens would be a good number to keep this year, which seemed reasonable.  Shows you how well I do with math.  Five hens + an average of four eggs a day = 20 eggs a week, give or take a few.  That, my friend, is a lot of eggs.  We give quite a few away to friends, but we also eat a lot of eggs.  A lot. of. eggs.  Happily, this is a delicious way to use a few.  It also makes great leftovers and reheats nicely (i.e., when you're sick of summer cooking, toss one of these in the oven and you'll have a few meals out of one cooking session).  Tip: invest in a toaster oven for summertime baking.  It's not quite as great as a regular one, but it doesn't heat up the house as badly.


I know, I know, someone somewhere out there has been searching for this exact vintage stool and I've ruined their lives.  Okay, now we can move on.

I found this stool for half price at a thrift store, which is almost nothing (or, $1.50) and loved the legs and the lines but not so much the shiny chrome and the heart-shaped back rest.  Yes, it's old and I did cut off the heart shaped back, but, in my defense, I kept the amazing gold flecked upholstery!  See, I'm not so bad after all.  At least no books were harmed in the making of this project.