Thursday, March 1, 2012


   An inspired marriage of two Southern favorites in one dessert, this velvety-rich cheesecake is spiked with cocoa and baked in a dark chocolate crust.  If you love both red velvet cake and cheeescake, this recipe is for you. A red velvet filling is spiked with cocoa, topped with a creamy cheesecake layer, and baked in a dark chocolate crust–making a wickedly-delicious combination.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Recipe


  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring
  • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprigs


  1. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.
  3. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.
  4. Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.


    Perhaps the most cheerful holiday in Russia is Maslenitsa (Shrovetide). This holiday is considered to come from pre-Christian times, when the Slavs were still pagans.
In the old days, Maslenitsa was for remembrance of the dead. So the burning of the figure of Maslenitsa means her funeral, and blini (pancakes)-coliphia. But with time, the Russians longing for fun and entertainment turned the sad holiday into jolly. Maslenitsa with blini-rounds, yellow and hot as the sun, sledding and horse sleigh's, fistfights and visiting with your mother-in-law . The rituals of Maslenitsa are very unusual and interesting because they combine the end of the winter holiday rituals and the opening of new spring festivals and ceremonies, which were used to promote a rich harvest.

    Maslenitsa is celebrated during the week preceding Lent. Every day of Maslenitsa was devoted to special rituals.


    On Monday, Maslenitsa was welcomed. On this day people made the straw stuffed figure of Winter, dressed it in old women's clothing and sang songs, while carrying it on a sleigh around the village. Then the figure was put out onto a snow covered slope that people used for tobogganing, which was considered not just fun, but an ancient rite, because it was thought that the one who came down the hill more than once was likely to have tall flax (good crops of wheat) in the summer.


    Tuesday was called "zaigrysh" (game Day). From that day on, the whole village started all sorts of activities: sleigh rides, folk festivals, skomorokh (traveling actors) and puppet shows. The streets are full of people in carnival costumes and masks, many of them visited the homes of their neighbors and organized impromptu concerts. Large companies rode troikas and simple sleighs.
    Pancake Week in 18th century Moscow, was hard to imagine without bear shows. Bear fun was very popular among all the classes of the people, in the towns, cities and villages. Trained bears amused the audience, imitating girls putting on makeup in front of the mirror or women baking pancakes.



    Wednesday-gourmand-opened feasts in houses with blini and other dishes. Each household has tables with delicious foods, baked pancakes, and brewed beer. Tents selling all kinds of food appear everywhere. They sold hot sbiten (drinks from water, honey and spices), nuts, honey gingerbread's and poured tea from boiling samovars.


    On Thursday-revelry-became the outcome from all of the fun and games that happened during the day. It was then, that fistfights took place (usually from drinking too much alcohol).


    If, by Wednesday the son-in-laws were treated with pancakes in there mother-in-laws house, on Friday it would be their turn to arrange the evenings meal with blini. On the day before, mother-in-law's would send to the son-in-law's house, everything necessary for the making of blini: pans, ladles, ingredients, etc. and the father-in-law's sent a bag of buckwheat and some butter. The disrespect of the tradition from the part of a son-in-law was considered a dishonor and an insult; it was a reasoning that they would be on the scorned by their in-law's.
    Special attention during Maslenitsa was paid to conjugal relations: couples, married the previous year were honored and celebrated. The newlyweds were put in the spotlight in their villages, they were forced to kiss each other in public, shoes and straw were sometimes thrown at them. Sometimes people could come to the home of the newlyweds and kiss the young wife. Tradition required that they dress semi-formal and go out to public meeting places in a painted sleigh, pay a call to all who had visited their wedding, and go down the icy slope under the accompaniment of a folk song. Maslenitsa was the time for mutual visits of families, which recently became related.


    Saturday was devoted to relatives paying a visit to the young couples homes.


    Sunday was named "forgiveness" day. On that day people asked each other for forgiveness for all grievances and troubles from the previous year. In the evening, people went to cemeteries and "bid farewell" to the dead. On the last day of Maslenitsa, comes the most interesting event-saying goodbye to Maslenitsa-a solemn burning of the stuffed figure of winter. People throw the remnants of pancakes and food into the huge bonfire , telling their children that all the nourishing food disappeared into the fire and to prepare for Lent.

The end of Maslenitsa

    Maslenitsa ends with the first day of Lent-making a clean Monday, which was considered the day of purification from sin and fasting from forbidden foods. On Clean Monday, people usually took baths or showers; women wash dishes, cleaning the grease and the remains of the forbidden food.


    I know there are thousands, if not millions of chocolate lovers out there. I happen to be one of those people and have tried several different chocolate treats in my lifetime. So what do I consider to be the top chocolate treats? I find that there are several different chocolate treat categories and there are treats in each category that are better than the rest. This article will stick to foods you can buy in almost any grocery store. These chocolate treats are low in price but high in taste.

Candy bars: We've all tried several varieties of this chocolate treat, but which ones are the best? Throughout my life, my tastes have changed and I've had several different favorites. My favorites lean now to either the milky way bar , with it's chocolate and caramel, or a nice big snickers bar, with the chocolate and caramel and a little dose of peanuts to go with it.

Ice Cream: Let's face it, just plain old chocolate ice cream is wonderful. It's right up there with vanilla. Vanilla you say? But I thought this was about things chocolate. You're right, but vanilla is like a canvas of a painting you can add anything to it to make it whatever flavor you're craving at the time. Anything from hot fudge to chocolate chips, a little or a lot, it's up to you to decide. When we talk ice cream it's all about the quality of it and the QUANTITY of it. We can go to the local market and get anything from rocky road to brownie batter ( chocolate ice cream with chunks of brownies. The ice cream world is your oyster, shuck it and eat it all up!!!

Cookies: When most of us think of a cookie, it's probably a nice, chewy, gooy, dunk in your milk, chocolate chip cookies. My family can't even wait for them to go into the oven, they'd rather eat cookie doe instead. You can make up a batch of them and after they come out of the oven, take some chocolate chips, put them in a microwave safe bowl, and when the chocolate has melted, dip half of the chocolate cookies in it for a little bit of a chocolate high!

Snack Cakes: Nothing says comfort food more than a box of individually wrapped ding dongs or ho ho's! A couple of them with a glass of ice cold milk hits the spot. I don't think there's a snack cake made that isn't good.

Candies: When you think of loose chocolate candies, does anything come to mind? Anyone?? Anyone??....You in the back row, with your hand up, what is it?.......I box of See's candy sir! Nuts and chews if you please!!.....Good answer! Good answer!
Anything from truffles to chocolate covered almonds with caramel and everything in between. Like Forrest Gump always says, "Life is like a box a chocolates! You never know what you're gonna get!" So be sure that it's a good quality chocolate, not a box of some unknown companies chocolates that you got at the Dollar Store (that sure doesn't taste like the chocolate I'm used to!).
    While there are several other chocolate treat categories, these are some of the best. I hope this article made you think of all of the different flavors and smells coming this holiday season and make sure you eat it in moderation. So next time when you're having a craving for more of that ding dong or those nuts and chews, there will be some more for you to eat, that little stash you keep for yourself, your family doesn't know about.