Blogs > Mission: Pinpossible

Nicole Franz is a copy editor and paginator at The News-Herald in Willoughby. She takes all those sweet recipes, grueling workouts, cleaning tips, money-saving tricks, do-it-yourself projects and looks that seem so cool on Pinterest and writes about how they really turn out.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pumpkin cheesecake made easy, delicious

So cheesecake is awesome. There’s really nothing better than cheesecake. Unless you count pumpkin cheesecake that is, which I certainly would consider better than regular cheesecake thanks to this pin for Easy PumpkinCheesecake from Mr.Food.

First off I needed to make the Graham cracker crust, which I blogged about here. But then I was able to get into this incredibly easy recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake.

It really is almost as easy as it looks.


1 egg yolk plus 2 whole eggs
1 prepared 10-inch graham cracker pie crust (extra-serving size)
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 (15-ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger       


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg yolk and brush onto pie crust. Bake crust for 5 minutes; set aside.  

In a large bowl, combine 2 eggs, cream cheese, and sugar, and beat with an electric beater on medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and ginger and continue beating until well blended.  

Spoon mixture into prepared pie crust and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set.  

Let cool, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Here's how my crust looked after being refrigerated overnight.

How it went

I only have a 9-inch pie pan. So right off the bat, we’re working off a smaller pie crust. I prepped the graham cracker crust that I also found on Mr. Food. I also don’t have a pastry brush, so I basically used my hand to spread the egg yolk around onto the pie crust. It wasn’t elegant, but it did work. So I baked my crust for five minutes and set it aside.

Looks pretty lovely now. Just waiting for me to finish the batter and dump it in.

I used Neufchatel instead of regular full-fat cream cheese to make this recipe a touch healthier. 

All the batter ingredients ready to mix.

I combined all the other ingredients in my trusty green mixing bowl and grabbed my trusty hand mixer. I blended it until it got this lovely orange sherbet color and an even consistency. 

It was all I could do not to pour this directly into my mouth.

I poured as most of the mixture into the prepped pie crust as possible, I probably had about a half-cup of the mixture leftover. (If you do use a 10-inch pan as I did when I repeated this recipe at my parents’ house for a birthday get-together the whole mixture should fit in your prepared pie crust.)

This one even turned out pretty.

I baked mine for 40 minutes to start then used a toothpick to make sure the cheesecake was set. Then threw some aluminum foil over it and put it in the fridge someplace my roommate wouldn’t find it.


Despite all the waiting (refrigerating), this ended up being truly easy and absolutely delicious. 

Golden orange deliciousness.

I could not wait to try this. In fact, I might have eaten the uncooked mixture that didn’t fit into my pie crust by the spoonful.

So when I finally sliced myself a piece (and doled one out for my roomie), I barely took the time to snap a photo before devouring my slice of pumpkin-flavored cheesecake heaven. The dessert has that cheesecake texture and consistency without as much denseness as a traditional cheesecake, and it definitely channels that delightful, autumnal pumpkin flavor. 

And the crust turned out perfectly. Not too crumbly, not too dry, but absolutely tasty.

The crust held together fantastically.

It was a big hit with my roommate and went over splendidly at a family birthday celebration when I made it in a full-on 10-inch pie pan. I definitely will repeat this one (and I know that my roomie will request it). 

Love pumpkin? 

I've also blogged about making healthier cakes with packed pumpkin, soft pumpkin cookies that are hard not to scarf down and a pumpkin French toast bake that will brighten any morning.
— Nicole Franz | | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Homemade graham cracker crust is easy as pie

I really wanted to do something fun and special as a treat for my roommate and me, and we’re both big fans of pumpkin-flavored desserts and cheesecake. So when I saw a pin for Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake, I was all about that. But before I could get to the pumpkin cheesecake I needed to make the graham cracker crust, which I pinned here.

Both pins are from Mr. Food and were easy to follow. But for now, we’ll stick to the crust.

Here's how the crust turned out before I poured the pumpkin cheesecake mixture into it.


1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted 


In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon; add butter then mix well.   Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate.

Chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour before filling.

The dry ingredients (plus a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, because I'm using this for pumpkin cheesecake)

How it went

The most difficult thing about this was turning graham crackers into graham cracker crumbs. I tried just smashing them in a mixing bowl by hand (nominally successful) and using a potato masher (moderately successful, but left a lot of larger crumbs). I tried putting a few in baggy and crushing them by hand to get the fine crumbs I needed. That seemed to work best once the graham crackers were already broken up somewhat. Mostly I just kept getting frustrated, because I couldn’t seem to find a truly efficient way to do this seemingly easy task. But eventually I managed to get 1 1/3 cups of crumbs in my mixing bowl.

A fairly blurry photo (sorry!) of all the ingredients including the scalding hot butter

Adding in the sugar and cinnamon (and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, because I was making pumpkin cheesecake after all) was easy. I wish I’d melted the butter on the stove, because I ended up using my microwave and had that awful exploding butter problem that seems impossible to avoid in your average microwave. But I microwaved it and managed to coat my microwave in a fine buttery coat while managing to narrowly avoid scalding myself on hot butter.
Once all my ingredients were in the mixing bowl I mixed well, for well, a while. It was one of those recipes where you really work at mixing it’s good exercise though right (I keep telling myself this so I feel less guilty about devouring the delicious food I’m making). I kept mixing until I got this doughy mixture to a fairly even consistency.

Mixing by hand should get you something that looks like this and a workout

Then I dumped the mix into my pie pan and started pressing. This was the second most difficult part of this recipe, because it’s kind of difficult to fill in every bit of the pie pan when your hands are buttery. But once I was done and had thoroughly washed my hands again, I tossed my crust in the fridge.

Impressive, eh? Emphasis on the pressing that you'll have to do to get to this part

— Nicole Franz | | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baked hard-boiled eggs make use of muffin tins, oven

Something about hard-boiled eggs makes me think about spring. Probably that whole connection to Easter. I love hard-boiled eggs, it’s a perfect protein-packed snack or addition to any meal.

Hard-boiled eggs in all there delicious glory

Before I get started on this post though I have to confess, I’ve never hard-boiled eggs on my own. I seem to recall helping my mom get the egg rolling by putting water in a pot and turning on a burner, but that’s about where I ended my involvement in hard-boiling. 

But this pin I found months ago, makes hard-boiling eggs seem so easy even I could tackle them, and it uses my favorite kitchen appliance: the oven. 

The pin is so simple a caveman could do it (sorry, Geico/cavemen everywhere). 

It’s one of those great pins where the image tells you everything you need to know. It’s just a picture accompanied by nine lines of all-caps text, which claims to impart “THE BEST WAY TO MAKE ‘HARD-BOILED’ EGGS” and that “NOT ONLY ARE THEY TASTIER, BUT THEY ALSO ARE MUCH EASIER TO PEEL!”

My muffin tin looks like it's seen better days doesn't it?


This includes a grand total of four steps.

“Place the eggs in a muffin tray so they do not move around”

“Turn the oven to 325 degrees”

“Pop in for about 25-30 minutes”

“and remove”

How it went

I decided to start out with six eggs, which I put into my muffin tin. I turned the oven to 325 degrees and set a time for 30 minutes. 

When, I pulled them out of the oven after the half-hour. I let them sit for about five minutes than pulled two out and put them into a container with cold water so that they’d cool off enough for my roommate and I to try them and see if they turned out.
See that burnt spot, not ideal. This was one of the eggs peeled from the 30-minute batch.

As it turns out, 30 minutes in my oven at 325 degrees will overcook the eggs, making them rubbery and almost impossible to separate from the shell. It also gave them these sweet burnt spots. 

Not easy to peel when you overcook them. This one came out with some battle scars.

So I decided to go with batch No. 2. Two eggs in the oven for 25 minutes at 325 degrees. I even cheated a little and pulled them out 30 seconds early. These ones did turn out easy to peel as promised. 

Look at this perfectly peeled egg! This is what that pin was talking about!

I don’t know about them being any tastier than eggs hard-boiled in water, but it certainly seemed a lot easier to just turn on the oven and place some eggs in a muffin tin than to bother with boiling water. 

Perfectly delicious and easy to peel, this was one of my 20-minute eggs.

I've tried this several times since my initial tryout of this trick, and I've found that in my oven the best results come about at 325 degrees and just over 20 minutes, so I'd update the instructions to 20-25 minutes and do some experimenting to hatch the perfect eggs in your oven.


— Nicole Franz | | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pumpkin French toast bake is sweet breakfast treat

I told you I’d be writing about this pumpkin French toast bake and here it is after more than a month. Better late than never, I always say. I made this as a birthday treat for my roommate.
We work opposite schedules so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything special with him like a birthday dinner or drinks that night, but everyone deserves a special birthday treat.

I saw this pin back in the fall, but didn’t get to it until winter had really set in, but it was worth the wait for me. This appetizing pin links you to foodgawker and then refers you to this blog post for the recipe. The post is on the Minimalist Baker blog.

I love the concept for this blog. According to their about section: “Minimalist Baker is a space for simple, delicious recipes. Every recipe consists of 10 ingredients or less, requires a single spoon or bowl, or takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.” 

The duo behind this lovely little blog is John and Dana Shultz. You can follow John on Twitter @johncshultz and Dana @danarshultz. You can also find Dana on Pinterest and they have a Facebook page for the Minimalist Baker.

Their blog has some fantastic art on it (way better than what you’re getting here, sorry folks, I’m a word person), and they have a nifty recipes section that features some shockingly simple recipes (I’m eyeing the baked sweet potatochips, which have just three ingredients and five steps).

But I digress. Dana’s picture-heavy post will make you want to eat this. So you need to know how to make it first (or con someone else into making it for you). 


3½ – 4½ cups 1-inch bread cubes (depending on type of bread)
7 large eggs
2 cups milk (any kind)*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup pumpkin butter (or ½ cup pumpkin puree)*
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar for topping
nuts, like pecan or walnuts (optional)

Those stars refer to notes highly recommending using pumpkin butter and to use whatever milk you want (including skim for lighter, and soy or almond for non-dairy). The recipe also notes that if you use pumpkin puree it is important to compensate the flavor by “adding a bit more puree, pumpkin pie spice, and a little agave nectar, brown sugar or maple syrup to the batter. Otherwise, it will lack that delicious fall, pumpkin flavor you’re going for.”

1. Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes – I recommend a crusty, whole grain variety, but sandwich bread will work, too. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish quite full.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, pumpkin butter and pie spice until well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.

3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar, additional pumpkin pie spice and nuts (optional). Bake for 35-45 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.

4. Serve immediately with maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.

How it went

First off, I should point out I did the first two steps in the middle of the night when I got home from work and was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake up my roommate. 

Regular-old store-brand wheat bread worked fine for me. And I got lazy and just ripped it apart.

Step one: I went with the leftover generic store-brand wheat bread that I had in my kitchen. It does not qualify as “crusty,” but I had already bought it and it was getting to the point where I needed to eat the bread before mold started to eat it instead. I also did not slice the bread into 1-inch cubes. Because the bread wasn’t “crusty” it seemed a lot easier to just tear about the bread into pieces roughly equivalent to 1-inch cubes. About eight slices was enough to fill my Pyrex dish. 

Ooey-gooey, pumpkin French toast batter.

Step two: I did not use pumpkin butter, because I didn’t have any and didn’t come across a crockpot recipe for pumpkin butter until after I made this (believe me, I will try this with that pumpkin butter recipe and let you know how that goes and how this recipe goes with pumpkin butter). Instead of using pumpkin butter I used a heaping ½ cup of pumpkin puree and added about 2 tablespoons of syrup to the mix. I don’t have fancy maple syrup, but the light store-brand syrup I did have seemed to work OK.

I attempted to pour with one hand and document it with the other.
If you think this is a bit blurry you should see the one I didn't use.

I also got a little generous with my pumpkin pie spice, but look at this picture from Minimalist Baker. If that’s only 1 ½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, then I am queen of Sheba. 

This is what it looked like right after I poured the mix. Pay no attention to that sink full of dirty dishes.

The pouring over the bread this is easy. I attempted to drizzle the mix over the entire thing, but pushing down the bread that wasn’t covered with a spoon did the job of distributing the mix nicely. So I took another picture, popped the lid on this sucker and called it a night.

Here's how it looked up close after I evened it out. Sweet and soggy.

Here's the full tray right before I popped a lid on it and tossed it in the fridge.

Bonus: I had leftover packed pumpkin, so I used the helpful ice cube tray trick to save the pumpkin for my next adventure in pumpkin-flavored food. I just scooped out the pumpkin by the spoonful and packed it into an ice cube tray as best I could. One standard sized cube is 2 Tablespoons, 2 cubes is 1/4 cup, 4 cubes is 1/2 cup, etc. So I've got about a 1 1/2 cup of packed pumpkin for my next recipe. Once frozen I just popped them out into a labeled freezer baggy.

The packed pumpkin is a bit harder to get even than the pesto sauce was

Step three: Early in the morning. Like super early for me. Like before 8 a.m. when I went to bed after 3 a.m. early, I got up to pop on the oven and get this thing going because I am the best roommate ever (no matter what he says when I accidentally wake him up at 4 a.m.).

Morning after a long night of soaking up liquid, this bread looks a little puffy,
but I would too if I spent all night soaking up liquor, I mean liquid.

Just before popping I jazzed it up with a little brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice
I did not top mine with nuts, because they’re expensive, but I did spring for brown sugar and more pumpkin pie spice. 

I was a bit haphazard with my sprinkling of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice,
but really is that something you're supposed to be precise about?

I checked on the French toast bake after 35 minutes and didn’t think it looked quite done yet. I baked mine for the full 45 minutes.

Done, a.k.a. slice and dice 'em time

It smelled so delicious, a lot like a less overwhelming pumpkin pie scent

Step four: I dished out a hulking piece for my roommate and set out some syrup for him to use. I went for a much smaller slice, because I was going to go back to sleep once he left for work. I ate mine with syrup, too. 

My tiny little corner piece, drizzled with syrup

It definitely needed syrup or a similar substitute (honey, agave nectar) to sweeten it. But this breakfast delight was ooey-gooey goodness. The syrup was just the icing on top of the proverbial cake. 

The only disappointing part of this recipe for me was that it wasn’t as pumpkin-y as I expected. I think that using pumpkin butter would add more of that pumpkin flavor into the French toast bake, but it was so easy to make that I can’t wait to retry this recipe with this crockpot pumpkin butter recipe.

And my roommate was happy to have a delicious, hot pumpkin pie-esque breakfast before heading off to work.

Love pumpkin? 

I've also blogged about making healthier cakes with packed pumpkin, soft pumpkin cookies that are hard not to scarf down and an easy and delicious pumpkin cheesecake.

— Nicole Franz | | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.

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