Strawberry Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Lemon Dressing

Strawerry Arugula Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette | Dinner Is ServedI have always had a weird love/dislike thing going on with fruit. When it’s fresh and in season, I can’t get enough of it.  When it’s not, I don’t even bother. This is especially true with berries and ESPECIALLY true with strawberries. They’re such a tease in the off season, too, aren’t they?  Always vibrant red and beautifully formed, flown in “fresh” from somewhere in South America.  Yet the taste is forever a disappointment and unless they’re drenched in sugar, you might as well be eating a cereal box.

My summer salvation?  Turners Fresh Market in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

Turners Farm Waupaca, Wisconsin

Located just about ten minutes from my family’s cottage on the beautiful Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes.  My childhood summers were spent going to Turners for fresh, locally grown berries, corn and melons. I can’t say that I loved or appreciated the fresh strawberries as a child but now as an adult, I treasure them.

Strawberry Arugula Salad Dinner Is Served 2

This year, they were the inspiration for this wonderfully fresh salad I made last night with ingredients I happened to have on hand in the fridge: organic arugula and crumbled goat cheese from Trader Joes.  Just needed a simple little lemon vinaigrette with a touch of honey for added sweetness, to finish. Lemon Honey Vinaigrette Dressing | Dinner Is ServedLemon Honey Vinaigrette Dressing | Dinner Is Served

In my morning after “post game” analysis, I decided that some slivered almonds would be a nice addition. I also think any kind of berries could be substituted for the strawberries as long as they’re fresh and sweet.  And of course the dislikers of arugula can substitute baby spinach or the tried and true “spring mix.”

Bottom line is that with fruit season up and running across the country, now is THE perfect time to visit your local farmers markets and add fruit to your salads!Strawberry Arugula Salad | Dinner Is Served

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Lemon Dressing


  • 4-5 ounces arugula (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, halved (or quartered if large) (see Note>)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 TBS slivered almonds toasted (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine ingredients for dressing in a glass jar and shake to combine. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

For salad, place all ingredients in a bowl.  Drizzle some of the dressing over and very lightly toss.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Note> This salad works best with very sweet, farm fresh strawberries.  If preparing in the off season, toss berries with a little bit of sugar and let stand for about 30 minutes before adding to salad.

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce

Smash Roasted Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce | Dinner Is ServedI grew up in what I like to refer to as the “Tang era.”   That powdery orange drink was all the rage in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It went to the moon so what’s not to love about it, right?  Unfortunately, Tang was the tip of the convenience food iceberg that consisted of over processed, industrialized food with colors not found in nature. Why enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice when you could be drinking….Tang!

Convenience food was IN, but on the whole, the food landscape during my childhood was pretty bleak.

Those dark days of cooking were eventually salvaged by the likes of Julia Child and Alice Waters who taught us that cooking could not only be fun, but cooking with natural/real ingredients and a handful of solid techniques could be even better.  Thank heavens my mom (who of course gave in to our constant clamoring for Pop Tarts, Snack Pack Pudding and the “Holy Grail” of convenience food: Swanson’s Frozen TV Dinners), regularly prepared dishes from scratch. And her buttery, new potatoes with dill were one of my absolute favorites.New Potatoes

In praise of mom’s Dill Potatoes, I’ve created my own *updated* version here using my latest most favorite smashed and roasted technique for the potatoes and finished with a lemony fresh sauce with honest to goodness real fresh dill and also some chives.  Actually the roasted potatoes are outstanding all on their own.  Just parboiled for about 20 minutes, then gently pressed (perhaps “smashed” is too violent a term here?), brushed with a little olive oil and finished in a 425° oven for about 30 more minutes:

Smash Roasted New Potatoes | Dinner Is Served

Tempted as I was to just stop with the plain roasted potatoes, I felt the need to take it to the next level with some of the herbs that were popping up in my spring garden.

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter | Dinner Is Served

With some butter of course, and fresh lemon, all gently melted together just to blend

Lemony Herb Butter Sauce | Dinner Is Served

This simple little sauce can be used on just about anything:  Vegetables, chicken, fish, grilled shrimp and pasta.  You can also vary the herbs based on what you have available.  Any delicate herb, like parsley, basil, tarragon, chervil, etc will add a uniqueness to the sauce.

As the French say “master a good butter sauce and you’ve conquered the culinary world.”

Well ok actually the French may not have said exactly that but the point remains that fresh is always best and my mom’s dill potatoes ruled the day.  In total gratitude, I salute you:Smash Roasted Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce |  Dinner Is Served

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce

  • 2 # red skinned potatoes, scrubbed and left whole
  • 1/8 cup + 1 TBS olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Chopped fresh dill and chives (about 1/4 cup in total)
  • 1/4 tsp. flour ** (for Gluten Free – substitute rice flour)
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 lemon, zest of
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°

Place potatoes in a large saucepan with cold water to cover and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Drain well.

Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray or line with non-stick foil.  Place potatoes onto pan and using a glass or jar gently press down on each potato so it is slightly flattened and a little cracked. Using the 1/8 cup olive oil, lightly brush the tops of the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, melt the butter with the remaining 1 TBS olive in a skillet over very low heat until just melted.  Add remaining ingredients until just blended then take off heat.

Spoon sauce over roasted potatoes and sprinkle with some additional fresh herbs just before serving.

Serves 4-6

Perfect Little Lemon Blueberry Tartlets

Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Dinner Is ServedThings I am willing to fuss over for many hours or days: cassoulet; demi glace, a perfectly smoked pork shoulder. Things I can barely stand to spend more than 30 minutes preparing…. dessert.

Which is why these little tartlets are nothing short of perfect. Light and lemony and bite sized. Best of all, they fall well under my 30-limit prep time requirement.  In fact, thanks to two special “short cut” ingredients, they can be prepared in about 15 minutes, which alone makes me jump for joy.

The first special ingredient is store-bought lemon curd:

Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Lemon Curd

If you’re ambitious and a stickler for doing everything from scratch, homemade lemon curd is pretty wonderful (Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd recipe works well).  But of course then you’ll most certainly blow my “30 minute dessert” rule. For me, I am more than happy to go with whatever I can find in the store!

The second secret ingredient: frozen phyllo cups: Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets | Dinner Is Served

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love these shells. Just crisp them up in an oven or toaster oven, for five minutes and they’re ready to fill!  Having been brought to tears once in my pre-culinary school days after doing battle with some uncooperative phyllo dough, I am more than happy to take advantage of this convenience.

Armed with these two incredibly time-saving ingredients, preparation is very simple.  Just whip some heavy cream with a little bit of powdered sugar and vanilla, stir in the lemon curd, fill the cups and top with your favorite berries, a dash of lemon zest and a final sprinkle of sugar:Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Lemon Curd 2

Of course the fun is just begininning this recipe. You can substitute any kind of fresh berry, add a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of fresh mint. The lemon cream is also a very versatile ingredient. Spoon it over angel food or pound cake then top with mixed berries.  Spoon it over sweet biscuits and strawberries for an instant shortcake. Or layer it with cake and fruit in glasses and top with slivered almonds for a quick trifle.

The tartlets can be made several hours in advance and the lemon cream will hold for several days in the fridge. And if my family’s response to these last night is any indication: MAKE EXTRA!  They may take 15 minutes to make but trust me, they’ll disappear in a fraction of that time! Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - COVER

Perfect Little Lemon Blueberry Tartlets

1 package (15 count) frozen Phyllo shells (I use Athens® brand Mini Fillo Shells)

1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup lemon curd (I use Dickenson’s® Lemon Curd)

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Pre-bake frozen phyllo shells according to package directions and set aside

Place a medium-sized metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for about ten minutes. Then remove.  Add heavy cream to bowl along with 1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat until medium peaks form. Place lemon curd in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add curd to whipped cream.  Beat until well combined and smooth.

Spoon lemon cream into shells.  Top with fresh blueberries and lemon zest.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve*

Serves 5-7

*I think these benefit from chilling in the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving. Can be made up to 8 hours in advance.  Cover loosely and refrigerate. Leftover lemon cream will keep for several days in the fridge.

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedFor me, Spring does not officially start until the chives appear in my little backyard garden. I can’t even remember how long ago I planted them, but it has to be at least 15 years ago by now. Through every harsh winter, rain soaking spring and blistering hot summer, they not only survive, they flourish.  Some years they flourish too much, and I find myself late summer, yanking rogue plants that pop up everywhere, while uttering some choice words.

But for now, they’re precious and welcome. As is this dish, which celebrates the best of spring with new potatoes, crispy green sugar snap peas, a touch of bright lemon and of course chives.

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedIn fact, these sugar snap peas are so beautiful, I think they deserve a moment all to themselvesSugar Snap PeasPreparation is fast and incredibly simple. Just simmer some new potatoes in lightly salted waterSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas and Chives| Dinner Is ServedA last minute saute brings everything togetherSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedCan you imagine this served with your Easter ham? It’s also the perfect accompaniment to my Sautéed Lemony Pepper Chicken.  Or if you’re in a seafood state of mind, try it alongside my Broiled Scotch Salmon.

Spring has officially sprung here in Chicagoland my friends, and I am looking forward to many months of grilling, farmers markets and sunshine.  And a final word of advice on the chives: seriously, snip off those purple flowers and add them to your salads. They’re beautiful AND you won’t have 10,000 seedlings to pull in August.


Sautéed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

1 1/2 # red new potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed

10 oz. fresh sugar snap peas

2 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup fresh chopped chives

1 tsp lemon zest

Fresh coarse ground pepper and Kosher salt

  • Cut the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium pan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 15 minutes or until just barely tender. Drain and set aside.
  • While potatoes are cooking, remove strings from sugar snap peas (if necessary).
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet for about 1 minutes over medium heat. Add olive oil and sugar snap peas. Add a pinch or two of salt and saute over medium heat until just crisp tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add potatoes to skillet and saute until just heated through, about 1 minute longer.
  • Season to taste with additional Kosher salt and several grinds of pepper.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle with lemon zest.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze


Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze | Dinner Is ServedThis recipe dates back to the very infant stages of my food writing in the early 2000’s before blogging was a thing. In fact, it was the very first recipe I shared with my friends and personal chef clients via a monthly e-newsletter and remains one of  my favorite ways to prepare pork tenderloin. It’s an under 30 minute meal and I am not fudging with that number one bit. In fact, if this takes you longer than 30 minutes to prepare, drop me a line and I’ll personally come to your home and make it for you!

Other reasons to love this recipe: it’s low in fat, gluten free, budget friendly, and dinner-party-worthy.

The fragrant honey balsamic glaze is the key to this dish, starting with a culinary match made in heaven: garlic and rosemary Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 1

And here is more rosemary that has been chopped (ok I just really wanted to show off this adorable measuring spoon)Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 2

I like to use aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe and some of my favorite  Gentle Breeze Honey from just across the border in Wisconsin. You can also substitute agave nectar if you prefer.

Gentle Breeze Honey

Now it’s simply a matter of combining the glaze ingredients, pouring them over some nicely seared pork tenderloin medallions and dinner is ready in about 10 minutes!

Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 3

I like to serve this with creamy polenta (Try Colavita’s Instant Polenta cooked according to package directions, with a little Parmesan and mascarpone cheese mixed in at the end for extra creaminess), and a simple green bean saute or cooked carrots for color.  One of those rare dishes that is perfect for a hectic weeknight and yet elegant enough to serve to company. So the next time a friend pops by unannounced  OR it’s 4:00 pm and you’ve just remembered that your spouse’s boss is coming over for dinner at 5:00, this is your go to meal.

Until we meet again, happy cooking!

 Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze

For the glaze:

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 TBS. chopped fresh rosemary

½ C. balsamic vinegar, preferably aged

3 TBS honey or agave nectar

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pork:

1 ¾ to 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed (see Note>)

Canola or vegetable oil for searing

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place all ingredients for glaze into a small, non-reactive bowl or jar and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (Glaze can be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then bring back to room temperature before using).

For the pork, slice the tenderloin(s) into 1-inch thick medallions (rounds). Season both  sides with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with a light film of oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot (a splatter screen and good ventilation are very helpful when searing any kind of meat).   Add the pork slices in one layer and sear for about 1 -2 minutes. Turn and sear for 1 more minute or so, until lightly browned. Transfer the slices in 1 layer to a shallow baking dish (or if your skillet is oven proof you may just keep the pork in the skillet, pour the glaze over and bake).

Pour the glaze over the slices and turn them to coat.

Roast for 8-12 minutes, or until cooked through and just barely pink in the middle. Remove from the oven and keep warm, loosely covered until ready to serve. To serve, place medallions on a platter and spoon some of the glaze over them. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Serves: 3-4

Note> Be sure your tenderloin has been properly trimmed and all excess fat and silver skin removed. For instructions on how to do this at home, check out this video: “Cooking Tips: How to Trim Fat from Pork Tenderloin


Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 1Wasn’t it just last week that I was commenting to someone how mild our winter has been thus far in the Chicago area? Well apparently I neglected to knock on wood because today we are MORE than making up for our snowfall deficit with the “Superbowl of Snowstorms.”  I have officially declared it an “all pajama day” at our house, along with getting the fireplace going and of course the game later on.

Days like this also call for hearty and comforting soups, like this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup, a recipe passed on to me a few years back by my sister. I actually made this soup earlier last week and it’s the perfect thing to make for a crazy busy work week.  Just prep some onions/carrots/celery the night before: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 3

The next morning, into the slow cooker it goes with some chicken stock (I use my Smitten Kitchen Slow Cooker “Uncluttered Chicken Stock” which I always have on hand in the freezer). For a true vegetarian version simply substitute vegetable stock. Add a can of tomatoes:

IMAG0973Some beans of your choice (I used Great Northern Beans this time around) And of course the secret ingredient for any minestrone soup: a Parmesan rind.  Low and behold, look what they carry at my most awesome grocery store, Mariano’s: Parmesan rinds!


Into the slow cooker it all goes and simmers away for a good 8 hours (on low)

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup| Dinner Is ServedThen about thirty minutes prior to serving, stir in some chopped zucchini, spinach and al dente ditalini pasta.Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 2

As for my snow day today, I’ll be cooking up a big batch of my favorite Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya, enjoying the winter wonderland, some football and later, a glass or two of red wine by the fire.

Winter Wonderland 2015

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can beans (either Great Northern, Cannellini, Kidney or Chick Peas), drained and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 Parmesan cheese rind

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups slightly undercooked (al dente)  ditalini pasta

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 cups fresh baby spinach

Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

  •  In a slow cooker, combine 5 cups broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, oregano, basil, thyme, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Add additional cup of chicken stock if soup is too thick. Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

Serves 6-8

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 4


Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese


~ Necessity is the mother of invention ~

                                        English proverb

 I honestly think this is how most recipes are created.  The fridge is near empty, save for a mish mash of leftovers. There’s a half empty box of pasta in the pantry and a container of ricotta cheese that is approaching its expiration date.  And those two remaining semi-stale hot dog buns?  Well yes of course those can be tossed into the food processor and turned into bread crumbs!  Bottom line:  your family is starving and food must appear soon or else.

Then in one magical moment, out of chaos, these ingredients come together into something splendid and behold, a recipe is born.

And so it came to be last month when all I had in my refrigerator were some ingredients leftover from a spinach salad I had prepared for New Years Eve (spinach, toasted walnuts and feta cheese) and a box of Barilla Orzo pasta.  Keep in mind these ingredients happen to fall into that category of “things I could eat every day forever and be completely happy.”

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Walnuts, Spinach and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served

All it needed was a touch of garlic and a splash of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil at the end to complete. The flavor and texture combination: amazing.   The possibilities: endless.  Serve as a hearty, meatless entree or if you’re in the mood or some protein, serve as a side with grilled chicken or top with some sauteed shrimp.  Leftovers taste great chilled for lunch.

This, to me, is what cooking is all about: working with fresh ingredients, creating, reinventing. If necessity is the mother of invention, then necessity is indeed a very good thing.

Lemon Orzo with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese

1 cup Barilla Orzo pasta

5 cups baby spinach, lightly packed

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Note>)

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

  •  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Barilla orzo pasta and cook until just al dente per directions; drain pasta and set aside.
  • Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add spinach and a pinch of salt.  Toss gently with tongs until spinach is just starting to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Return orzo to the pan.  Stir in walnuts and then feta cheese.  Add some additional salt if necessary and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss gently to coat.  Then just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over and sprinkle with lemon zest.  Give it one more toss then serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side

Note> For the freshest nuts, try the bulk section of your grocery store. You can buy just as much as you need, save some money and chances are they are infinitely fresher than the packaged nuts in the baking section.

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served





Happy New Year from Dinner Is Served!

Happy New Year from DInner Is Served!While many people like to look forward to the year ahead on New Years Eve,  I like to reflect on the past year.  Times spent with family and friends,  big events for the kiddos (my daughter starting college), milestones for me as well (starting a job full time). Travels were few and far between but very fun, especially exploring Kentucky and bourbon country last spring!

Then there are my food memories. SO MANY, it’s hard to know where to begin.

First, there was our epic bad winter in January-February. Look back at scenes like this makes me hope and pray we don’t get a repeat this year.  Then again, it was fun hunkering down at home with a roaring fire, good wine and wonderful soups and stews:PicMonkey Collage

Spring eventually emerged and my garden kicked into full swing. I was blessed with an abundance of fresh kale, cabbage, lettuce, herbs and tomatillos.

10653283_10205316937229167_1893379757392262430_nAnd at some point I became absolutely obsessed with potatoes, looking at my blog posts. My favorite, of course being these fantastic salt baked potatoes with rosemary and garlic. These are a MUST TRY!Potatoes Baked in Salt with Garlic & Rosemary | Dinner Is Served

I partnered with BelGioioso cheese in November to create a Wedge Salad with Creamy Gorgonzola Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Toasts, was able to give away a big, beautiful cheese basket from them AND ended up with my most favorite photo of the year: Romaine Wedge Salad with Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing and Garlic-Parmesan Toasts

Speaking of photos, I think I’ve been doing a bit better in that department. I’ve learned the importance of natural light and composition. Looking back at my early blog days, my photos were pretty bleak, poorly lit and requiring a lot of editing.  I am gradually trying to replace the old photos whenever I remake a recipe. Just check out the difference:

Happy New Year from DISAccording to WordPress stats, my most viewed post was on February 9th, with my Rigatoni with Sweet Sausage, Escarole, Cannellini Beans and Garlic Broth.  While I still think this photo could be improved upon, I remember the recipe well and it was super delicious and I may just have to make it again this weekend (and maybe take a better pic!).

Rigatoni with Sweet Sausage, Escarole, Cannellini Beans and Garlic BrothThe recipe that I loved the most that I thought deserved more attention was my wonderful Roasted Squash Soup with Pie Spices. I don’t know, maybe there’s just an over abundance of squash soup recipes in the fall and this one got lost in the shuffle! I would love for you all to try it sometime.Roasted Squash Soup with Pie Spices | Dinner Is Served

And last, but certainly not least, I went out with a bang with these incredible Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecakes. I admit I’ve been totally baking averse in the past, but I’m coming around. Maybe 2015 will be the year I finally master a pie crust!

Mini Eggnog Lattee Cheesecakes | Dinner Is Served

I have no idea what 2015 has in store for me, but for sure we will have many new food adventures and hopefully I will pick up many followers along the way.  As always, I am forever grateful for the support and kind words from my readers both here on my blog and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  I wish each and every one of you a joyous, prosperous and healthy 2015.

Dinner Is Served


Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecakes

Mini Eggnog Lattee Cheesecakes | Dinner Is Served

 I am very close to my tipping point for holiday wining and dining.  Close but….not QUITE there yet.

With the end of 2014 right around the corner, I thought I’d go for broke with my last post of the year. Combining my most favorite December coffee drink: Starbucks Eggnog Latte with one of my most favorite desserts: cheesecake.  But rather than create one massive cheesecake, I decided to downsize with this adorable mini cheesecake version instead. It also gave me the perfect excuse to try out my new Norpro Mini-Cheesecake pan, a gift from a fabulous co-worker:

Norpro Mini Cheesecake Pan

My goal with my creation was to make sure there were elements of a real latte in every layer.  For the chocolate crust, that meant adding a little instant espresso powder: Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecake | Dinner Is Served

And then adding some rich and sweet eggnog to the cheesecake layer:

Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecakes | Dinner Is Served

Can we pause for a moment to praise the almighty workhorse in my kitchen that is my KitchenAid Stand Mixer? Mine is pushing about 25 years now. It has taken a licking and keeps on beating (and kneading, whipping, stirring, etc.)

KitchenAid Mix Master

 Ahhhh….ok now back to the cheesecake! What latte would be complete without some sweet whipped cream topping (remember this is our last hurrah so no cutting calories here). I chose to take the whipped topping one step further and add even more eggnog. The final cheesecakes get a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg and a sprinkle of some festive, pearly sprinkles (or “jimmies” if you’re from Boston).

If you are lacking in the “mini cheesecake pan” department, never fear. These can be baked in lined muffin tins that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.  You can also easily make a gluten-free version of this cheesecake by substituting gluten-free chocolate wafers for the crust and sweet rice flour for the batter.  And finally, if you get the urge to make these later in the year and fresh eggnog is not available, you can just substitute heavy cream in the batter and add a little eggnog syrup (available at to taste.

I can’t think of any more beautiful or delicious way to end 2014. I’ll be back on New Years Eve with a look at this past year. Until then, eat, drink and be merry my friends!


Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecakes


1 cup crushed chocolate graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies

3 TBS unsalted butter, melted

1/2 TBS granulated sugar

2-3 tsp. instant espresso powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg


12 oz. Philadelphia Brand® cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup eggnog (see Note 1>)

1 TBS all purpose flour

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg


1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 TBS granulated sugar

2 TBS eggnog

Freshly grated nutmeg

White, pearly sprinkles (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a mini cheesecake pan using non-stick spray OR insert cupcake liners into a cupcake pan and spray.
  • In a small food processor (or by hand), combine the ingredients for the crust. Place a heaping tablespoon into each cup, lightly pressing down using a spice jar wrapped in plastic wrap (see Note 2>) Bake for 5 minutes.
  • For cheesecake filling, in a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together sugar and cream cheese. Add eggnog, flour, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Mix at low-medium speed just until blended (do not over mix). Scrape down sides of bowl then add egg and beat only until combined. Spoon filling into cups, filling each about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until centers are slightly jiggly. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Note that the centers of the cheesecakes will deflate while cooling.  Do not worry!  The whipped cream will cover any sunken parts or other imperfections! Transfer to a refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Before serving, prepare whipped topping. Chill a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes then remove. Beat together whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.  Add eggnog and beat just until combined. Unmold cheesecakes (if using the mini cheesecake pan). Spoon or pipe whipped cream onto the top of each cheesecake. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and sprinkles and serve.
  • Yields: 12 mini cheesecakes

Note 1> If eggnog is not available, substitute 1 cup of heavy cream and flavor it with some eggnog syrup (available online)

Note 2> for an even crust, wrap some plastic wrap around the bottom of a spice jar and use it to tamp down the cookie crust layer:Mini Eggnog Latte Cheesecake | Dinner Is Served

Merry Christmas 2014 from Dinner Is Served

IMAG0829Oh my what a wonderful Christmas it’s been and still is! Family is coming over this afternoon for our super duper appetizer spread. If I do say so myself, we’ve totally outdone ourselves this year with great food (and also presents as you can see). Starting last night with a simple but satisfying Christmas Eve dinner of grilled NY Strip steaks, roasted truffle potatoes and broccoli. Then up early this morning to Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Baked French Toast and fruit salad.

This afternoon we’ll have our appetizer spread featuring some family favorites: Marinated Pork Tenderloin on Rye and Dill Dip with chips and veggies. Also serving up some fresh shrimp with my Holiday Dipping Sauce

IMAG0839And of course what holiday meal would be complete with cookies. LOTS AND LOTS OF COOKIES!  We have our tried and true favorites:

Heavenly Chocolate Toffee Bars

THE Heavenly Toffee Chocolate bars (above) and (below) my grandma’s Apricot Bars

Gram's Apricot Bars

And two new favorites to add this year: Potato Chip Cookies with Toasted Pecans from Creative Culinary and these melt-in-your-mouth Peppermint Meltaways fro The Recipe Critic.


Anticipating a total and complete food coma tomorrow which hopefully I will recover from by the time NYE rolls around. So until then, I am wishing you all the joys of the season and blessings for you, your family and friends.

Ann @ Dinner Is Served