You Can Make Cheesecake!

Cheesecake is by far my favorite dessert! I feel like it gets a bad rap for being difficult to make and I’m hoping I can show you how simple it can be! Pretty much any special occasion I offer to make a cheesecake because I feel like I can’t justify regularly making an entire cheesecake for our family of 4. I started making my own a couple years ago and have learned a LOT through trial and error. The biggest thing I learned though is that cheesecake is NOT as hard as it looks like to make! You can start getting really fancy and add special cheeses but I stick to the regular Philadelphia cream cheese recipes and they taste so good!

Eliza mostly liked the whipped cream on this pumpkin flavor cheesecake!

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Tips for making cheesecakes:

  1. I get most of my cheesecake recipes from Baker By Nature. I’ve never tried one I didn’t like. The White Chocolate Raspberry one is amazing! Once you have the basic recipe figured out though, it is really easy to modify flavors. You can also just do a plain cheesecake and put whatever toppings on you want too!
  2. Let your ingredients get to room temperature (including sour cream, eggs, cream cheese, and lemon juice). This makes the very smoothest cheesecakes without any clumps!
  3. Use a water bath. This is a slightly larger pan placed around the cheesecake pan filled with boiling water as you put it in the oven. This prevents the cheesecake from cracking. Do you HAVE to do a water bath? Nope! A cracked cheesecake taste just as good as a non-cracked one – they just don’t look quite as pretty!
  4. After they are done baking, turn the oven off and don’t open the oven door for at LEAST an hour or even longer. This allows the cheesecake to cool slowly so it won’t crack!
Pumpkin Cheesecake wrapped in foil + water bath!

Tools for making cheesecakes:

  1. You need a springform pan. These range in price from $8-20 or I’m sure you could pick one up for around $2 at a thrift store. A springform pan has a little hinge that takes the side off the pan since you can’t dump cheesecakes upside down to remove them from the pan without damaging them.
  2. You also need some sort of pan to go around the springform pan. I just use a 10″ cake pan but you can use any sort of pan that is wider than the cheesecake pan.
  3. WIDE Aluminum Foil to wrap the springform pan. I made like 10 cheesecakes before I realized regular foil wasn’t cutting it and I needed to buy extra wide foil. I would wrap and wrap and wrap the edges of the springform pan with regular foil but ALWAYS got leaks and soggy cheesecake. Once I bought foil wider than the pan, I just use a single layer and have never had a leak!
  4. A blender. You can use a KitchenAid or hand-held electric mixer too but I have found that the blender makes the smoothest cheesecakes.
The batter mixed in the blender can be poured easily into the pan!

Last tip: If you don’t want the hassle of the springform pan and water bath, cheesecake bars taste *almost* as good and don’t need any special tools!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
Peppermint Mocha Cheesecake

5 Day Car Camping Meal Plan

Camping food can be so delicious and it also can be a big disaster. We have car camped enough to have experienced both. We were really happy with our meals on our Teton trip so I thought I would share them to give you ideas for future car camping trips!

When I planned our Teton trip, I tried to choose meals with a minimum amount of refrigeration requirements. We have a big Yeti cooler which is great, but with the temperatures reaching 90+ outside, our cooler just baked inside the bear box and needed the ice refilled about every other day. I mainly wanted to use our cooler for the kids’ milk, eggs, and cheese sticks.

We’ve also tried cooking over the fire many times and have never had a lot of success. We finally bought a double-burner propane stove and it has been a GAME CHANGER for our camping meals! We also have a griddle that fits right on top of the two burners for pancakes, bacon, etc. Now we mostly just use the fire for s’mores after dinner is all cleaned up!

Breakfast was the same each day: a hard boiled egg for each person and a bowl of plain quick-cook oats sweetened with honey. Lunch was also the same every day: peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese sticks, and apples. We would pack our lunches as we were cleaning up breakfast to avoid hauling all our cooking supplies out again at lunch.

Dinners:

Day 1: Kodiak Cakes pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. This was the only meal we regretted a little because the bacon was SO greasy/messy and we had to be really careful how we cooked and cleaned up since there were bears in our camp twice while we were there. The Kodiak cakes are awesome because you just have to mix them with water and they have a decent amount of protein. Costco has awesome dehydrated hash brown cartons that you just add water and fry right up!

Day 2: Spaghetti and (pre-cooked) Sausage: I brought spaghetti noodles, a can of sauce, and pre-cooked sausage. If I made this at home, I would have just used regular sausage, but since we were camping I wanted already cooked sausage (kept in the cooler, of course) to add an extra layer of food safety.

Day 3: Quesadillas with chicken and black beans: These were SO easy, I actually make these at home for dinner sometimes (with freshly cooked chicken). I just mixed up canned chicken, black beans, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce and put it in a tortilla. I fried them dry on the griddle for about 2 minutes on each side! The kids had just plain quesadillas!

Day 4: Breakfast Burritos: I made scrambled eggs and we added cheese, the rest of the sausage from day 2, a new batch of hash browns, and salsa!

Day 5: Chili: Towards the end of the week I really wasn’t wanting to rely on our cooler anymore, so we had a can of chili and added tortilla chips and cheddar cheese on top.

We also had two days worth of Mountain House meals on standby just in case one of the meals wouldn’t have worked out for some reason!

There was no dishwashing station at our campground so our dual dish containers were fantastic for doing dishes after eating! We boiled water in our kettle to have hot water for washing the dishes.

When I was researching camping meals, there were some crazy gourmet recipes out there that I wouldn’t even make at home – much less camping! We like to keep things pretty simple when we car camp! Let me know if you have any other easy go-to camping meals!

Our 3 Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE my chocolate chip cookies. I’m also SUPER picky about my cookies. I’m not a fan of sugar cookies, Oreos, or pretty much any store-bought cookies…if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t worth the calories in my opinion!

I have three different cookie recipes that I make and keep in the freezer: my original most delicious (and most unhealthy) ones, Seth’s favorite oatmeal ones, and my recently discovered brown butter chocolate chip cookies!

Top: Oatmeal (#2), Bottom left: Brown Butter (#3), Bottom Right: Original (#1)

Recipe #1: The Original

I don’t have a source for this recipe – my mom makes them, my grandma makes them. I think it was maybe from the Toll House chocolate chip bag years and years ago?? The secret of these is the Crisco AND Margarine. Not healthy, but SO good. I make myself feel slightly better about making these by knowing that all the store-bought cookies have at least this or worse in them…probably.

  • 1 Stick Margarine (1/2 C), softened
  • 1 Cup Crisco
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Mix with hand mixer or stand mixer then add and stir by hand:

  • 3 Cups Flour (minus about 1 tablespoon for a less cakey cookie)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes until golden brown around the edges

Recipe #2: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Seth didn’t love seeing all the margarine and Crisco going in to the cookies in our lunches and requested something slightly healthier. I modified my original chocolate chip cookie recipe to make Seth’s favorite oatmeal cookies!

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Mix with hand mixer or stand mixer then add by hand:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats (I prefer not instant)
  • 1.5 Cups Chocolate Chips

Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes until golden brown around the edges

Recipe #3: Everyday Chocolate Chip Cookie

This recipe isn’t mine but I linked it right here! I have never made a Baker By Nature recipe that I didn’t love. This one is a little more work because you have to boil the butter ahead of time to give them a browned-butter flavor but they are delicious and do not go stale too fast!

I always freeze the cookies I bake within 2 hours of baking them. They are great to grab for lunches or when you last-minute need to bring a dessert somewhere!

I would love to know if you try any of these recipes! Happy Baking!

Step 1: Prepped for electric mixing
Electric mixing done!
Dry ingredients added!
Left to right: Brown Butter, Oatmeal, Original
Left to right: Original, Oatmeal, Brown Butter

Homemade Bread Recipe!

I have been making my own bread for ten years! I grew up eating only my mom’s homemade bread and she grew up eating her mom’s homemade bread. The main reason I make my own bread is the taste – I just plain do not like the flavor of store bought bread! I also make my own bread because it is cheaper than buying bakery bread and healthier.

My recipe is still a majority “white bread” recipe, but I like knowing exactly the ingredients going in it! It always makes me feel a little weird that the bread I make will start to mold around 4 days after leaving it on the counter while the store-bought bread will still sit not molding for 2+ weeks! The only time we ever buy bread is if we are going on a road trip or vacation.

I don’t have a bread machine, although I’m sure this recipe would work just fine using one! This recipe makes 10 loaves but when I used to live in an apartment and did not have a freezer in the garage, I would half the recipe to make 5 loaves and it worked great! The dough also works great for cinnamon rolls or raisin bread.

The #1 secret to great bread is using the right flour! I buy my bread flour in Canada because they have cheap 20kg bags at Costco. I typically buy Rogers Silver Star which is a high protein, unbleached hard-wheat flour that makes excellent bread! Robin Hood is also a Canadian brand that is a hard-wheat high-protein flour but it is more expensive than Rogers. I usually buy my Robin Hood brand for my wheat flour. The best flour I have found in the US that is comparable is King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour. I bought this when we lived in Nebraska and did not have access to the Canadian flour!

Most normal bowls are not big enough to make 10 loaves of bread so I use a Rubbermaid container that is sold as a “dish washing” container that works perfectly for making bread!

My favorite bread pans!

Sandwich Bread Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4T Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 2 C Warm Water
  • 1 C Oil
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 T Salt
  • 6 C Warm Water
  • 2.5 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 20 C Bread Flour

Instructions:

  1. Combine yeast, sugar, and 2 C warm water. (You should be able to put your hand in the water without it hurting/burning. This is to avoid killing the yeast). Set for 10 minutes to let it proof (it will bubble up a little bit)
  2. Add oil, eggs, salt, 6 c warm water, and whole wheat flour
  3. Stir, add flour until no longer able to stir. (Stir as hard as you can! The less sticky the bread is when you dump it on the counter, the easier it will be to knead!). You will only add about 12 cups of flour to begin with – and most likely won’t use all 20. This part is what takes practice to feel when the dough has the right amount of flour. You want it to be smooth and stretchy, not sticky or floury/chunky when you are done!
  4. Knead bread for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Add flour as needed when the dough is too sticky.
  5. Place about 2 T of oil in a bowl (or wash out your Rubbermaid bin and use that), rub the oil on the bottom of the bowl, place dough inside then flip dough over so the oil lightly covers all the dough.
  6. Let rise for 1 hour with a towel or plastic wrap covering it
  7. Divide dough into 10 equal parts, lightly knead each part into the shape of a loaf. Place in greased pans about halfway full. Cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour.
  8. Bake 24-30 minutes at 350F. Let cool for about an hour.
  9. Eat within a couple days or freeze.
The Rubbermaid mixing container I use!
Kneading the dough
Ready to bake!
Slicing the bread before freezing

I know making bread can seem like a daunting task if you have never done it before, but it is really second nature to me now. I have the recipe memorized and even though it takes about 4-5 hours from start to finish, I am really only actually “making” the bread for about 30 minutes. The more you do it, the faster and better you will be!

These loaves last our family 2 weeks. I always slice them with an electric knife before freezing them. One loaf makes about 12 slices of bread. We use these for our lunch sandwiches, eat eggs on toast in the morning, and occasionally make French Toast or grilled cheese. I actually make our sandwiches in the morning on frozen bread and by lunch they are thawed and ready to eat!

Let me know if you have any questions about bread making! I love baking but I have never really branched out and tried any other bread recipes. Let me know if there are any other recipes you love or if you try to make bread for the first time yourself! Happy baking!

Seth’s PB&J lunch with PB&J socks
PB&J Picnic