In our family, we have folks who love blackberries and look forward to any dessert that includes their favorite fruit. And any meal that includes cheesecake is a sure winner. It was no surprise that coupling blackberries and cheesecake was a winning combination! This recipe came from the Food Network.


1-9 ounce box chocolate wafer cookies or cookie crumbs (I use GF cookie crumbs and they work great)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted


3-8 ounce blocks cream cheese
1 1/4 sugar
1 16 ounce carton sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-6 ounce containers blackberries


For the crust: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Add the cookies and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Drizzle in the butter and pulse until the crumbs are completely coated with the butter. 

Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake until set, 15 to 18 minutes; let cool completely on a rack, 30 minutes.

Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with a large piece of foil and put it in a large roasting pan.  

For the filling: Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. Add the heavy cream and beat until just combined. Mix in the eggs by hand, one at a time, until just combined. Mix in the vanilla by hand until just combined. Set aside.

Puree half the blackberries in a blender until completely smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and ladle in 1/4 cup of the cheesecake mixture. Stir to combine. Pour the remaining plain cheesecake batter into the crust. 

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop scoopfuls of the blackberry batter on top of the plain batter. Drag a long wooden skewer through the batter, making sure the skewer reaches down to the bottom, to marble the colors for a tie-dye effect. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.  

Bake until the outside of the cheesecake is set, but the center is still slightly loose, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake inside for 1 hour.

Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan to a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours. 

Run a knife around the edge of the pan one more time, then open the pan clasp to release the sides. Transfer the cheesecake to a serving platter or cake stand. Smooth the edges of the cheesecake with a knife. Slice and serve garnished with the remaining blackberries.  

It’s important not to OVERMIX the cheesecake or the texture will be off. It will be more souffle-like than cheesecake-like.


These are the best pork chops I’ve ever had. My husband is a big fan of Malcolm Reed (HowToBBQRight). These were his recipe and they’re easy, moist and flavorful. They’re also really pretty!


6, thick-cut bone-in pork chops

For the brine:
64 ounces apple juice
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup BBQ rub (we used Killer Hogs BBQ Rub)

Additional Killer Hogs BBQ Rub to season chops


Prepare the brine by mixing apple juice, brown sugar, kosher salt and 1/2 cup BBQ rub. Place in a food-safe brining container. Let brine in for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove from the brine and remove any excess liquids. Sprinkle additional seasoning evenly over the chops.

Set smoker to 250 degrees using hickory wood for the smoke. You can also use any fruit wood of your choice.

Smoke chops, turning once, until they reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees when checking with a meat thermometer. This takes roughly an hour and a half, depending on the thickness of your chops. We use about a 1 1/4″ thick chop. Remove and wrap in foil to rest. The chops will gain an additional 5 degrees of internal temp at this stage. It’s important not to OVERCOOK as the chops will get too dry.

I love all of the fabulous grilled and smoked meats my husband makes. They are always the centerpiece of our year-round meals. However, the quality of the side dishes that go along with those offerings make them even more special. This particular one I originally found via and then I altered it to suit our family’s tastes and dietary needs. It was a big hit and is certain to become a frequently requested family favorite!


i/2 pound bacon, diced
1 uncooked bratwurst link, casing removed
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely diced
1 8 ounce block cream cheese
12 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (I use gluten free and it turns out great!)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups half-and-half (you can add a little more depending on how moist or saucy you like your mac & cheese)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I use a mixture of sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, and cheddar jack)
1/4 cup Ritz crackers, crushed (I use gluten free panko crumbs when making this a gluten friendly batch)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons BBQ rub of your choice


Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a mild wood or pellet like hickory. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet or cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat. Add diced bacon and bratwurst and brown. Add the diced jalapenos and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cream cheese until melted and incorporated. Add the uncooked noodles, water and half-and-half. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles have absorbed the majority of the liquid. Turn off heat and stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and cheese. Sprinkle the top with the BBQ rub and crackers or panko crumbs. Add the slices of jalapeno to the top.

Place the mac and cheese in the smoker for 30 minutes. Either increase your temp in the smoker to 400 or transfer to a 400 degree over for a few minutes to brown the cracker crumb topping.

This is a really versatile recipe and you can change it in so many ways to suit your tastes and needs. Make it gluten-free, or change up the types and varieties of cheeses to make it interesting.


Traditions come in many forms and are associated with many specific times and places. Cherry Rhubarb Jam is a recipe that touches on each of those.

My mother-in-law had rhubarb plants in her yard and each spring she would make her delectable Cherry Rhubarb Jam. I don’t know where she got her original recipe – probably from one of the many sisters-in-law or from a newspaper like Capper’s Weekly. But each year we looked forward to the gift of a few jars and each time we spread it on a biscuit or toast it reminded us of spring.

After she passed away, we were able to transplant several of her rhubarb plants to our own yard and have continued the tradition using the same plants. This is a really simple recipe and it makes a perfect gift for family, friends and neighbors.


4 cups diced fresh rhubarb
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 package (3 oz.) cherry Jello
1 can cherry pie filling (21 oz.)
1/8 tsp. almond extract (optional)


In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and the rhubarb and let sit for a couple of hours. Stir occasionally as the sugar breaks down the rhubarb and moisture is released.

Cook the rhubarb on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until it is tender.

While rhubarb is hot, add the Jello powder and stir in to dissolve completely.

Add the cherry pie filling and mix well.

You can then proceed to put in jars and process to seal, or you can place in a container(s) in your refrigerator for immediate use. This keeps up to 3 weeks (although I doubt it will last 3 days).

I remember going to Aldi’s and picking up flats of cherry pie filling to take with us when we traveled to Denver. My mother-in-law was always excited to get her pie filling from here because it was cheaper.


When I saw the name of this recipe on the Southern Living website, I knew I had to give it a try. There is nothing so quintessentially southern as sweet tea. And in our family, we have a version of sweet tea that we refer to as Grandma Croy Tea. I decided to bake this “Sweet Tea” Bundt Cake and make my simple syrup with our own family tea recipe.



  • 3/4 cup milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 family-size iced tea bags
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sweet Tea Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 family-size iced tea bag and 2 Constant Comment tea bags
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Make the Cake: Heat milk in a small saucepan until steaming and almost boiling. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Allow to sit for 10 minutes; press milk out of tea bags and discard. Remeasure tea milk and add additional milk until you have exactly 3/4 cup. Set aside to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar for 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add first three eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding the next. Add two large spoonfuls of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate. Then add last 3 eggs one at a time.

Mix together tea mixture with vanilla extract and vegetable oil. Alternate adding flour mixture and tea mixture in 3 additions to the mixer, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing for 1 minute with each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is well combined. Pour cake batter into prepared Bundt pan and use a spatula to level the batter. Bake until a cake tester inserted comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before inverting out of pan.

Make Sweet Tea Syrup: Bring water in a medium saucepan to a boil; remove from heat and add tea bags. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard. Add sugar and salt to tea; heat and stir over medium until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Use a cake tester to prick the surface of the cake all over. Brush the syrup across the surface of the cake; continue brushing until all the syrup has been absorbed.

The outcome was good. This cake is dense and not as sweet as you might imagine. It’s especially good with a cup of coffee or a big glass of, you guessed it, sweet tea!


Here’s another great recipe that is a standard, courtesy of my little sister who is our family cookie baker. She said this one was a favorite of our Dad. He liked oatmeal cookies, but was never a fan of raisins. This one became a favorite because it had all the great taste of an oatmeal cookie, but was a lighter and crispier version.

This recipe was originally published by Taste of Home Magazine.


1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, salt nutmeg and cinnamon and mix well; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

I have a granddaughter who just turned eight and she loves pecans. Layla is unique in so many ways and having a passion for pecans at such a young age is just one more thing that sets her apart. It brings joy to my heart when she asks me if I will show her how to make something. One of the things she’d wanted to learn was how to make a pecan pie.

For her birthday this week, I made these Quick Pecan Pie Bars. The recipe is one I found on and it was just right for an easy and packable gift.


3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of one 15 x 10 inch pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup butter and salt and using a pastry cutter, blend the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Press firmly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, make the filling. In a large bowl stir the eggs, corn syrup, 1 1/2 cups white sugar, melted butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in chopped pecans.

When the crust comes out of the oven, spread the filling evenly over the hot crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until set. Let cool before slicing. Store in an airtight container.

The crust resembles shortbread. When cutting, you may want to dip the knife in hot water between slices to make cleaner cuts.


This recipe came to me by way of an old friend who worked with me many years ago. Her name was Gisela and she was born and raised in Berlin. She grew up during WWII and shared many stories about her experiences during that difficult time. She eventually married a U.S. soldier and moved to Missouri. This recipe was her mother’s and is an old, traditional warm German potato salad. She brought it to work potlucks and it was a hit with everyone.

This is a really simple dish, inexpensive to make, and is perfect for church dinners, family pot lucks, work luncheons and anywhere you need to carry a Crock-Pot full of yumminess!


2 1/2 pounds red potatoes
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
black pepper to taste
8 slices thin-sliced bacon
4-5 tablespoons bacon grease
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch


In a large pan, place potatoes (whole and with skin on) and cover with water. Cook on medium until potatoes are done, but still slightly firm. Remove from heat and drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice. Place slices into a large mixing bowl.

Add the onions, salt and pepper to the potatoes. Toss to mix. DO NOT STIR OR YOU WILL BREAK UP THE POTATOES AND MAKE THEM MUSHY.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Drain bacon grease into a glass measuring cup. Make sure you have 4-5 tablespoons bacon grease. Allow any of the dark crispy bits from the pan to settle to the bottom. Return the clear drippings to the skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, water and vinegar. Mix the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve the cornstarch and make it pourable. Add to the mixture in the skillet, whisking to combine. When the mixture achieves a gravy consistency, remove from heat.

Place the potato mixture in a Crock-Pot. Add the sauce. Using a large spoon, gently move the potatoes away from the sides to allow the sauce to reach the bottom of the Crock-Pot. Heat on low in the Crock-Pot for 1-3 hours. Reduce to warm until ready to serve. When serving, crumble the bacon over the top. Refrigerate leftovers.

Gisela always insisted that she make her bacon in the microwave so that the fat didn’t become dark as it does in a skillet. She said having very clear bacon fat was key to having a beautiful dish of German potato salad!


I promised that my little sister, the family cookie baker, would share a few of her favorites that have become hits and traditions with our family. This is the next in the list of those treasures and one she only recently began baking. I anticipate this will be a frequently requested treat!

As the name implies, these cookies taste EXACTLY like Texas Sheet Cake in cookie form. They’re rich, decadent and will definitely satisfy your cravings.

This recipe was originally published by


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat, set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and sugar together until light, scraping sides frequently.
  4. Add in egg and vanilla and continue mixing until incorporated. Mix in baking powder and salt.
  5. Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flour. Dough will be thick.
  6. In a microwave safe bowl heat chocolate chips on high in 30 second increments until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds.
  7. Mix melted chocolate directly into cookie dough until evenly mixed.
  8. Drop dough by a measured tablespoon sized mounds onto baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes until cookies just appear set. They will still be very soft on the inside. DO NOT overbake!!
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Make the icing: In a medium saucepan combine 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons milk over medium heat, whisking until melted together. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. Pour icing over cookies and allow icing to set before serving.

Store these cookie, covered, for up to three days. However, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about storing them – they’ll disappear too fast!


I have been told that, technically, a Shepherd’s Pie uses ground lamb and Cottage Pie uses ground beef. However, in our family we’ve always referred to this dish as Shepherd’s Pie and it would be confusing to a great many people to change it now. So, here is one of my ultimate comfort food recipes. It’s easy, tastes great, and freezes well in case you want to make multiple small casseroles for smaller groups.

And the ultimate recommendation is that it’s one of my husband’s absolute favorites.

I change this up by alternating the types of mashed potatoes I use for the topping. I frequently make horseradish mashed potatoes or cheddar mashed potatoes – both are a great match for the beefy dish. And, it can easily be a gluten-free dish if you use gluten-free brown gravy mix.


For the filling:

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bag frozen mixed peas and carrots
2 envelopes brown gravy mix
4 cups water

For the mashed potato topping:

5-6 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium sized pieces
1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 cups milk (more or less)
2 tablespoons creamy horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


Peel potatoes and cut into medium sized uniform pieces. Add water to cover the potatoes and salt the water with about a tablespoon of kosher salt. While the potatoes are cooking, make the filling for the Shepherd’s Pie.

In a large skillet, add the ground beef and onion, salt and pepper. Cook the ground beef mixture, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. When cooked through, drain any grease from the pan and return to the burner over medium heat. Add the 2 tablespoons tomato paste and stir it into the ground beef. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the bag of frozen peas and carrots, stirring to mix. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetable are thawed and softened. In a large mixing cup or bowl, combine the contents of the brown gravy packets with the 4 cups of water, mixing with a whisk. Pour the gravy mixture into the ground beef and vegetables. Cook until the gravy thickens, stirring occasionally. When thickened, remove from heat.

When the potatoes are fork tender, remove from heat and drain. Add the potatoes to a large heat-proof mixing bowl and add the butter, salt, and horseradish. With a hand mixer or a potato masher, start mashing the potatoes. Gradually add milk until the potatoes are the consistency you prefer. (Note: The amount of milk used varies depending on the potatoes themselves and the consistency you like for the topping. I tend to like mine to be a little moister and looser to top this dish than what I would serve as a regular side dish. They will be in the oven and a little extra moisture helps them remain creamy after baking.)

If you want to serve the whole batch, use a 9 x 13 baking dish. You can also break this up into smaller casserole dishes. I typically prepare half in a smaller casserole dish and prep smaller portions in disposable aluminum loaf pans and put in the freezer for future use.

Place the filling in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the filling, making sure you reach all the edges to seal. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

This is one of my husband’s very favorite things. It is the ultimate comfort food and is a perfect dish when you have drop in guests. Add a salad and some hot rolls and everyone will leave full and happy!