Hello…testing…do we have a blog here? I know, I know – blog FAIL. This year started so…unexpectedly and I think we’ve been kind of reeling ever since. We’ve had some personal things going on as well which has made for a very sad and neglected blog. We are cooking but we are both mostly sticking with the old standbys and not much new.

I did make a Kazakh feast for Nauryz (the Kazakh New Year) last week. Chrov Plov, Cheese Pastries, Meat Piroshkis, Carrot & Radish Salad (from mymommymakesit – I omitted the anise because we didn’t have any and used a little cardamom), Chicken Shashlik (kabobs), Honey Cookies, and Russian Snowballs (which are pretty much exactly like Mexican Wedding Cakes – I used a combo of walnuts and pecans which was delicious!). Oh and I also made a Russian Tea which was like a spiced punch. All in all, I had a wonderful day of cooking and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing the meal with friends! I took exactly ZERO pictures. Sigh. What kind of blogger am I these days?

We are excited to be expanding our family again through adoption. It’s been a big decision and it’s a big step in faith but we are thrilled to welcome #4! The process will take awhile – probably 12 months or so but we can’t wait! Our boys are delighted beyond words! So…that has been keeping us a little busy – discussing, deciding. etc. I’m also launching a new business since I LOVE Pampered Chef products and need to earn extra for adoption expenses.

Steph has a new job which is exciting for her! She will be so awesome! It will allow her a little less time for posting but hopefully we’ll both manage to continue sharing some recipes – or rather, get back to sharing… We are hoping to begin a family cookbook which is a big undertaking but would be so treasured!

So…that’s what’s happening in our non-blogging world.

Believe It or Not!

We have a great week with daily posts coming up! It will include soup, candy, brunch and more! We will have some great recipes for last minute gifts and goodies that are simple but delicious! We are looking forward to it after the past week – a necessary, lighter week. 🙂

Weekend Fare & Winners!

First, we are so pleased to announce that the winner (by popular vote!) of the Friday Feature naming contest is Amy E. with her suggestion of Foodie Fridays! Congratulations, Amy! We will send you the Salad Cookbook. Thanks to all of you for the great suggestions! We look forward to beginning our new feature in September and we hope that many of you will join in with your recipes and photos and food stories!

And the random winner of the Deceptively Delicious Cookbook is Monica! Congratulations!

Today I wanted to share a couple of baked blueberry recipes. Blueberries are my husbands favorite fruit and I grew up picking and freezing blueberries every year – something I have continued to do! So, needless to say, we make lots of blueberry items. I tried a couple new recipes this week. The first is a crumb cake which I thought was good but a little dry – I should have baked it for a little less time. The second is cheesecake bars which were absolutely wonderful and the recipe would be quite adaptable for a variety of flavors – it will definitely be added to my regular dessert repertoire.

Print This Recipe

For the streusel:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high-speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. 

(Adapted from Tyler Florence)
Print This Recipe

For the base:

Butter, for greasing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

For the base:

Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter. Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners. In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the texture of bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate. Pour into the lined baking pan and gently pat down with the base of a glass. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. When done set aside to cool.

For the filling:

Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to the food processor and mix until well combined. It should have a smooth consistency. Gently mix in the blueberries.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars. Garnish with fresh blueberries if desired.

Vacation & You Vote!

Hello everyone! We decided awhile back that we needed to occasionally take a week off from the blog…so, this is our summer vacation! We will back next Monday with many new recipes and photos. In the mean time, I will post a poll tomorrow so you can vote on your favorite of the finalists we’ve chosen for the Friday feature name!  So be sure and check back in for that and cast your vote.

As always, thanks so much for reading our blog, trying our recipes, and giving us great feedback! We are nine months into this project and it was about a year ago that this idea was born. It’s been a lot of work and even challenging at times but we are excited to continue bringing you inspiration (we hope!) and healthy, seasonal recipes. You are always more than welcome to contact us at thecooksnextdoor@gmail.com.

Happy Memorial Day

We hope you enjoy your day with family and friends. Our extended family is enjoying a picnic – I’m taking gluten-free Italian pasta salad, fruit, chocolate chip cookies, and lemon glaze cookies.

We are so grateful for the many veterans who have served and those are currently serving in the military. Their self-sacrificing job protects us and makes them heroes.

New Arrival!

We are so excited and pleased to announce that Heather had her baby girl yesterday! Both she and baby girl are doing well! There will be a few more posts from her as she was so on top of it and had some pre-planned. Please join me in congratulating Heather and her family!

Some Blog News


April is here and it’s arrival marks 6 months of The Cooks Next Door! Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and trying our recipes! It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work for us. We have a few changes coming and we wanted to make you aware of them.

– We will change our posting schedule to Monday – Thursday.

– One of us will have a personal post every Tuesday – it may include recipes, farmer’s market or csa finds, gardening, preserving or other topics of interest. Heather’s will be called Counter Culture and Alaina’s is yet to be named. We are excited to welcome you into our homes and kitchens even more.

– We will continue to have Market Fresh, Off The Shelf, and Weekend Fare on a regular basis! We will also still offer holiday menus. magazine reviews, an assortment of other recipes, and occasional restaurant/shop reviews.

– We will also be featuring some guest posts in the coming months. We are looking forward to enjoying a new wife’s perspective, a newly gluten-free cook, and a grill master as well as others.

– May is a busy month for both of our families. Heather is expecting baby #5 at the end of April and will be taking most of the month of May off. And Alaina will be travelling overseas for the first part of May. While there will still be many posts, it may be less than usual. We will both be back hard at work for a summer full of wonderful produce and great recipes!

As busy moms of littles, we are always striving to find the balance. We thoroughly enjoy doing this blog and sharing our passion for cooking, baking, menu planning, entertaining, and seasonal eating. We try our best to answer all of your questions. We consider the recipe requests and try to include some of them in our posts but we simply haven’t been able to incoroporate all of them yet. We hope over the life of this blog that we continue to give you recipes that you enjoy!

If you or anyone you know would like to advertise on our blog, has products or books that need reviewed, or would like us to host a cooking-related giveaway, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We also really appreciate you sharing our site with friends and family through word of mouth, blogging, tweeting, and facebook!

Thank you again for making this a wonderful project. We look forward to continually improving and updating  our website!

Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to 2009 and hello to 2010, we wish to thank you for your encouragement and support of our website. Without you, dear readers, it would be a rather dull endeavor. We appreciate your comments, suggestions, feedback, and mostly for keeping us wanting to bring you new recipes.

We have many plans for 2010 – our first full year up and running. We look forward to continuing to bring you into our homes and kitchens!

May your new year be filled with family and friends, exciting ventures, and wonderful food!


Apron Winner

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the holidays and haven’t gotten around to posting the winner of the apron! The random winner is…Nancy L.! Congratulations! We will get that mailed out to you soon!

Hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas enjoying good food and making memories with your families!

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas from our families to yours…

(I’m afraid the lighting was quite bad and there was a long line behind us but you get the idea…)

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!

-Charles Dickens