Category Archives: Back in the Day

No-Sugar-Added Cheesecake Squares {and why I limit sugar in my diet}

During my freshman year of college I found out that I have a genetic heart condition that requires me to stay active and eat healthy (nothing that will kill me if I don’t, it just causes a lot of pain). My doctor told me to cut out caffeine and sugar from my diet. Having caffeine taken away from me as a college freshman (when I stayed up until at least 2am every night and often 3 or 4) was difficult. But after two years of back and forth, in May of 2006, I finally settled into my new diet. I didn’t realize it until I started writing this post, but it’s been nearly a decade ago now!

rach2004Celebrating my 17th birthday just before I started my freshman year of college in the late summer of 2004. Look at me so blissfully unaware that I’m about to be told I can’t have sugar or caffeine anymore. 😉

People often apologize for eating desserts in front of me, but it honestly doesn’t bother me. It’s been so long that I don’t miss it anymore. Every now and then I’ll have a craving for something sweet and so I’ll either eat fruit or make something with Splenda or Stevia. My preference is Stevia because Splenda upsets my stomach, but Splenda is a cup-to-cup ratio exchange with sugar so it’s much easier to bake with. Stevia takes a lot of guess work. But when you get it right, it’s awesome! 🙂

Cheesecake Squares (1).JPG

While I was in college my mom made a point to still make me desserts for my birthday even if they had to be sugar-free. She came up with two winners that I still make from time to time when I’m craving something sweet. And today I’m going to share her Cheesecake Squares recipe that she adapted from Pillsbury (original recipe here).

Cheesecake Squares (2).JPG

(No-Sugar-Added) Cheesecake Squares


2 (8oz) cans refrigerated Pillsbury Dough Sheet
2 (8oz) packages fat free cream cheese, softened (this is important!)
1 cup Splenda OR 1/4 cup granulated Stevia (I used Stevia for the squares you see above)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp Splenda or granulated Stevia
1 tsp ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13” pan. Press one dough sheet into the bottom of the prepared pan.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together softened cream cheese (if it’s not soft, this is a lot harder to do), 1 cup Splenda or 1/4 cup granulated Stevia, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Spread over the dough layer in pan.

3. Unroll the second can of dough and lay on top of the cream cheese layer. Do not press down. Pour melted butter over the entire pan. Combine the remaining Splenda/Stevia with cinnamon and sprinkle on top.

4. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is crisp and golden. Serve hot from the oven or let cool and refrigerate until they easily hold together.

If sugar isn’t a problem for you, you could easily make these with sugar (using the same Splenda measurements). And if you want to try for Stevia – it just takes a little trial and error. Read the instructions on your Stevia to find the appropriate ratio for one cup of sugar. I went with Stevia for the Cheesecake Squares photographed in this post and they turned out wonderfully!

These are delightful. They are incredible straight from the oven as well as after they cool and go in the fridge for a few hours. I usually eat them both ways. One when they initially come out of the oven and then a chilled one the next day. Yum!

Have you tried a dessert like this before?

How would you have reacted as a college freshman to the news that you needed to give up sweets and caffeine? It definitely took me two years of back and forth before I really got it, ha!

Love Rach


My Grandmother’s Blueberry Muffin Recipe

From the time that I was a little girl until I was a college student, whenever I visited my mom’s parents there were a few things I could always expect. Normal things like warm hugs, laughter, and love, of course. But other constants as well.

with MB and DK(with my grandparents when I was a teenager)

For example, I could always count on my grandfather to offer a hair cut or trim if I wanted one (he was a barber and the only one who cut my hair until just a couple of years ago).

I could always count on him to make as many eggs as I wanted prepared any way I’d like (this was my favorite as a kid and I often ate half a dozen eggs for breakfast at their house – jokes were made about my future cholesterol, but I’ll have you know it’s still perfect today 😉 ).

And I could always count on waking up in the morning to the aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins. From the time I was a small child, that was the first thing that would greet me every morning as I woke up. The warm scent of blueberry muffins wafting back to the bedroom. Eagerly I would bound out of bed and run straight for the kitchen where, without fail, my grandmother would be pulling a fresh batch out of the oven.

with momma billie 1987.jpg(with my grandmother in December 1987 when I was 6 months old)

My grandmother lost her fight with cancer while I was in college. But only after beating the odds for 20 years. There are no words for how grateful I am to have had her in my life for those years. Today I am thinking of her and I wanted to share her blueberry muffin recipe with you guys. 🙂


Momma Billie’s Blueberry Muffins


2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened.

3. Fill 12 greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Every time I bake these and my house is filled with this sweet aroma, I am reminded of my grandmother. I might be a bit biased, but if you are looking for the best blueberry muffin recipe of your life, this is it. 🙂

Were there certain things you could always count on when visiting grandparents/aunts & uncles/etc growing up?

Love Rach

Welcoming November with Recipes!

Well, it’s officially November! I say this pretty much all the time, but it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies! Next thing you know, CHRISTMAS will be here! 😀 But I know some of you don’t like to talk about Christmas until after Thanksgiving so I will do my best to restrain myself. 😉 Anyway, to welcome the chillier months, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve been cooking lately!

veggie soup

veggie soupThis is my mom’s vegetable soup recipe! It’s a great base recipe that is meant for adjustment. Veggie soup is all about using up whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. So this time around, I used carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, and lima beans because that’s what I had. Also, I’m not one who has to have meat in my veggie soup, but Christopher loves it so I cooked up the rest of a half pound of ground beef that I had leftover and put it in this soup. But again, super adaptable – use stew meat or ground beef or none! 🙂

pork and rice (4)

pork and riceI had to ask my mom about the history of this recipe because I’ve never heard of it outside our family. Here’s what she had to say, “[Pork and rice is] something mother concocted when I was growing up. It was a way for a cheaper piece of meat to go further when feeding the family. Rice has always been pretty cheap too. After all, Daddy was a barber in the 60’s when men/boys began to ‘let their hair hang down.’ The late 60s and 70s were a lean time in our family.” So since my mom grew up eating it, she made it for us when we were growing up too. Truly comfort food at its finest. Our first year of marriage, we probably ate this nearly once a week just because it really is such an inexpensive meal (and so good!). We don’t eat it as often now, but every time I make it, there is an audible sigh of joy with my first bite (much like with chicken ‘n dumplin’s).

momma billie and daddy kenA shot of my mom’s parents in the mid 1970s. Aren’t they a handsome couple? 🙂

double banana bread (2)

double banana breadI got this recipe from Christina over at Hungry Meets Healthy. I tweaked it just a little (more vanilla and cinnamon, less sugar), so for the original recipe go here! This bread is absolutely delightful! Fresh from the oven with a little melted butter… delightful!

Typing up this post is making me all kinds of hungry for comfort food. We had chicken ‘n dumplin’s earlier this week and it was THE BEST. I love to cook and try new things, but there’s nothing like those tried and true favorite family recipes. 🙂
Love Rach

Celtic Crossing

When we first moved to Memphis nearly five years ago, we lived in an apartment on my grad school campus and immediately fell into a great group of friends from our complex.

grad school friends

Since then, jobs and PhD programs took our grad school friends far away, but we had a solid 2 years of great times together. And many of those great times took place at a pub called Celtic Crossing. 🙂

celtic crossingThis is actually us at Celtic Crossing. 🙂

So why do we love Celtic Crossing so much? Well for one thing, they have 2 for 1 fish ‘n chips on Tuesday nights. And they just so happen to be the BEST fish ‘n chips we’ve ever had!

celtic crossing fish 'n chipsI haven’t been to the United Kingdom so I can’t say that these are the best in the world, but of all the places we’ve tried in Memphis, this is definitely our favorite! Plus, 2 for 1 on Tuesdays! TWO FOR ONE! It’s fabulous. 😀

appetizersAlso, if you show up before 6pm you get HALF PRICE appetizers! So we would always arrive at 5:30pm on Tuesday so we got our half price appetizers with our 2 for 1 dinner. What can I say? We were poor grad students. 😉 We’ve tried several of the appetizers. The bruschetta is unbelievably delicious (pictured at the top)! Also pictured here are the Delicious Dublin Duo (shrimp wrapped in bacon), Potato Skins (also SO good), and Fried Potato Balls (they don’t have these on the current menu, though).

As a heads up, this is a pub which means you have be 21 to enter even if you don’t plan to drink. And if you, like me, look 16 then will definitely ID you so don’t forget that ID! And since this is a pub the inside is pretty smokey, but they have great live music in the evenings that helps make up for it. They also have patio seating which is our favorite when the weather is nice. We don’t smoke or drink so we prefer to be outside where the “pub smells” aren’t quite as overwhelming.

So the moral of this story: Go to Celtic Crossing at 5:30pm on Tuesday for 2 for 1 Fish ‘n Chips and 1/2 price appetizers. Bring friends and your ID! Sit on the patio if it’s nice weather and enjoy the live music! 🙂

Celtic Crossing on Urbanspoon
Celtic Crossing on Foodio54

Love Rach

My Grandmother’s Rolls

I was blessed to grow up with all four of my grandparents living and even a great-grandmother on my dad’s side. I’ve talked about my mom’s dad and how he taught me about cereal mixing and the proper way to eat molasses.  And I’ve mentioned my mom’s mom and how she left me her china collection. But I haven’t shared with you one of my favorite things about my mom’s parents from when I was growing up.

momma billie and daddy ken(yes that is me at age 15 on the left and age 16-almost-17 on the right when I graduated high school)

As a little girl, I used to love going to their house because every morning, I would wake up to the most amazing and familiar aromas: homemade blueberry muffins baking in the oven and  bacon sizzling in the skillet. I would bounce out of bed and rush to the kitchen to see my grandparents standing at the ready –  aprons on, spatulas in hand. After huge hugs, Momma Billie would pour me a large glass of milk while Daddy Ken would ask me how I wanted my eggs prepared. I would watch with fascination as the eggs sizzled and cooked just perfectly every single time. No one made eggs like my Daddy Ken. 🙂 And the best part was that I could eat as much as I wanted. My family was always amazed at my ability to down half a dozen eggs in one sitting. What can I say? When it’s good, it’s good! 😉

dk and mb (Looking for style inspiration? I love both of these looks! Daddy Ken in 1977 and Momma Billie in 1960)

My other favorite food-related memory with my grandparents would hands-down be my grandmother’s homemade rolls. I love bread and especially warm, fresh-from-the-oven rolls. And I have eaten a lot of bread in my lifetime, but I have never had rolls as good as hers. I’m sure much of that is wrapped up in sentiment and the fact that I grew up eating them. But truthfully, they are the best rolls I’ve ever eaten.

homemade rolls

I made the rolls for my girls tonight and they absolutely loved them! I mean my girls pretty much love all the bread I make and there are seldom leftovers, but more than half the girls said that these rolls were absolutely the best I’ve made!

homemade rolls

It may seem strange that these are rolled out and cut with cookie cutters like biscuits are, but that’s the way Momma Billie always made them. And you don’t mess with a good thing. 🙂 In fact, I talked to my mom about this today and she said that it wasn’t until she was an adult that she even knew there was another way to make rolls. Love how those things we were raised with stay with us. 🙂

momma billie's rolls

momma billie's rolls

momma billie's rolls

I know many people keep family recipes a secret, but I’ve never known anyone in my family to not share a recipe when asked. When you have the best-of-the-best… why not share? 😉 And trust me, friends, these rolls ARE the best! At least in this girl’s completely biased opinion. 😉
Love Rach