I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

I'm a Debbie Downer

Here at Wish Upon A Chef we talk mostly about food and recipes, but I want break from tradition for just a few minutes and talk about life.  And we can't really talk about life without also talking about death. 

I started this blog in 2006 during a rough patch in my life.  Cooking and blogging gave me something to look forward to and be accountable for and I blogged like hell during those days.  Things eventually worked out for the best and I've thanked my lucky stars for the joy and happiness I've experienced since those dark days.  But I think we all know it can't be roses and rainbows every single day and blogging or cooking can't always cure what ails you.

My blog has been without words for the last 3 months.  My meals have consisted mostly from the stock of frozen prepared foods in my freezer.  There has been no creativity or desire.  No words would come. 

My mother has been battling stage III cancer since September.  She is preparing for a bone marrow transplant in March at Vanderbilt hospital.

We tragically lost my 16-year-old cousin to suicide in November.

Jesse James, my furry four-legged companion of nearly 12 years, died in February. 

My job has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress over the past several months. 

I look at myself in the mirror and I hate what I see - the dark circles under my eyes, hair badly in need of coloring.  I hate the way I feel - lethargic, unmotivated, depressed.  My thoughts have been dark and brooding.  I've been going through the motions and nothing more, but it's time to change all of that and the only way I know how is to dive right back into life. 

It's time to breathe life back into Wish Upon A Chef and resurrect a few other projects that I've been working on.  It's time to be thankful for the times we've had and make the most of the time still yet to come. 

I chose a Caramel Apple Cheesecake from Pinterest as my inspiration for getting back into the kitchen.  The recipe that I found was based on Mimi Hodges' Candy Apple Pie, which won the Pie of Emeril's Eye contest, but I tweaked it just a bit more and came up with the perfect blend of sweetness to celebrate a friend's birthday this past weekend.

It's life.  It's death.  It's all going to get in the way at times.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake
adapted from Mimi Hodges, winner of Good Morning, America’s “Pie of Emeril’s Eye” Contest, 2000

1 1/2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Apple Filling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped pecans, for garnish

To make the crust: preheat the oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. Combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter in a medium bowl. Use a fork to stir until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press into an even layer over the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until golden in color. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 350 F. 

To make the apple filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon, stirring to combine, and cook until gently bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the apples and toss to coat. Cook until the slices are tender, and most of the liquid in the pan has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Add the cooked apples to the cooled crust.

Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling. 

To make the cheesecake layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla, egg and lemon juice and beat until incorporated and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Pour the cheesecake batter over the apples in the crust and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cheesecake is set, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before making and adding the caramel.

To make the caramel sauce: Add the butter, brown sugar and heavy cream to a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling until the mixture thickens slightly, about 7-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.

Remove the sides of the springform pan, then gently pour the caramel over the cheesecake. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

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