Jan's Faves

Favorite recipes, gardening tips, and more

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

I finally found a true chocolate cheesecake where the chocolate flavor and texture is not overshadowed by the cream cheese and sugar.  The dark chocolate crust, and the ganache topping really make this a hit with all chocoholics.  Personally, this may have sealed my self-bestowed daughter-in-law-of the-year award for 2011 after I served this up over Thanksgiving to my dark chocolate-loving Mom-in-law!   Note:  recipe calls for Scharffen Berger cocoa and it really is worth seeking it out.  I found both the bar and powder at my local Whole Foods.   Another bonus:  can be made 3 days ahead!  How nice is it to get a homemade, high-quality dessert made ahead of time to concentrate on the main course?!


  • 24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9-ounce package)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted


  • 1 9.7-ounce bar Scharffen Berger 70% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate,* chopped
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Scharffen Berger)
  • 4 large eggs


  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 ounces Scharffen Berger 70% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate,* chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Bittersweet chocolate curls

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling: Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in processor until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.

For topping: Stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. Do ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated.

Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.


November 30, 2011 Posted by | Desserts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Baja Butternut Soup

By far, the most popular, tastiest, and skinniest of soups I made for our team cleanse before Thanksgiving.  Adapted from Chef Jesus Gonzalez  at Rancho La Puerta, I added the grilled corn, and left out the nonfat yogurt dollop.  We’re talking serious yummy and satisfying, low-cal soup with 168 calories per 2 c. serving.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated for 5 days.  If you can find precut squash, cook in steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender, and skip past the first 2 directions.  This will be a huge time and effort saver!  Precut and peeled squash readily available at Jimbo’s and Whole Foods.

  • 1 1/2 pounds (1 small to medium) butternut or other winter squash
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon  chipotle chile powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 ears corn, husked
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Cut squash in half and seed. Place the halves on a baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Scoop out flesh when cool enough to handle.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, onion and carrot and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the squash flesh, cumin, chipotle powder to taste, and cloves. Add broth and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat grill to medium heat and grill corn, turning occasionally, until lightly grilled, but not charred.  Slice kernels off of cobs.
  • Puree the soup with an immersion blender or a regular blender (in batches) until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Add corn kernels.  Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with and sprinkle of chives (or parsley).

November 25, 2011 Posted by | Appetizers, Jan's Fave Recipes, Sides & Salads | Leave a comment

Sweet Potato Streusel

A tried and true winner at any Thanksgiving table or Pot Luck!  Also a bonus because you can make it the day before.  I make it as stated but leave out the coconut because we don’t care for it, and leave out the nuts because most of us are allergic.  So flipping good!!


  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

For Filling: Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook sweet potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain; return to same pot. Stir potatoes over medium-high heat until excess liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and mash potatoes until almost smooth. Mix in half and half, eggs, ginger and vanilla. Season with salt. Spread in prepared dish (filling will be about 1 inch thick).

For toppings: Rub together sugar, flour and butter in medium bowl until moist crumbs form. Mix in pecans and coconut. (Filling and topping can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle topping over filling. Bake until filling is set and topping is brown, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.


November 20, 2011 Posted by | Jan's Fave Recipes, Sides & Salads | Leave a comment

Soft & Chewy Sugar Cookies

These are so simple and so basic, yet my kids request them all the time!  But nobody said it better than the 11 yr old son of my BFF:  “Mrs. Rooney’s sugar cookies are so are so good, I could sell the crumbs for a dollar each!” ‘Nuf said.  Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, 2002.


  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, preferably Pillsbury or Gold Medal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still firm
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling dough
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. 1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. 2. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or with hand mixer, beat butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
  3. 3. Place sugar for rolling in shallow bowl. Fill medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip hands in water and shake off excess (this will prevent dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that sugar sticks to dough). Roll heaping tablespoon dough into 1 1/2-inch ball between moistened palms; roll ball in sugar, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, moistening hands after forming each ball and spacing balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheet (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Using butter wrapper, butter bottom of drinking glass; dip bottom of glass in remaining sugar and flatten dough balls with bottom of glass until dough is about 3/4 inch thick.
  4. 4. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges and just set and very lightly colored in center, 13 to 16 minutes, reversing position of cookie sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet about 3 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

November 8, 2011 Posted by | Desserts, Jan's Fave Recipes | Leave a comment