Birthday Cheese!


It’s a Fun Family Friday! I’m going to share one of my daughter’s favorite silly baby stories and two tasty recipes. Spring is on the way and it’s a good day to smile!

Food For Thought

My daughter turned 12 last month. It seems a long way from that first birthday party eleven years ago, yet it feels like it just happened yesterday.

At a recent family gathering, we were regaling her with tales from baby and toddlerhood. One of our family’s favorite stories is from her first birthday party. Those were the days she LOVED Elmo, the little red fuzzy monster from Sesame Street. We had Elmo birthday invitations, plates, napkins, centerpiece, etc. Red balloons were everywhere. I also bought an Elmo cake pan and made a chocolate cake decorated with red buttercream for the family to share. For my girl, I had a single chocolate cupcake frosted bright red with a single candle. This was to be her “smash cake.”

With all that red frosting and chocolate cake, we placed a sheet on our living room floor before putting her high chair right in the center. We had lots of family and friends over to share in the delight of her first birthday. Everyone waited anxiously for the BIG cake moment.

And then #reallife happened. With everyone watching, with cameras ready, with all the excitement…she cried. She did not know what to do with this cupcake. She’d never really seen or tasted cake, or anything sweet for that matter. This sticky red frosting was a sloppy mystery to her. I tried to help her get into her cake, but every time I had some of the cake or frosting on her hands, she would cry and wave her hands around, imitating a “Get it off, get it off!” motion. I couldn’t get her to take even a taste of her birthday cupcake! My child never once took a bite of her first birthday cake. Instead, she happily noshed on cheddar cheese sticks while the rest of us ate our sugar-filled cake and ice cream.

As a mom who had envisioned the perfect first birthday party (I was an intense perfectionist in those days!), I was greatly disappointed that my child didn’t even try the cake I had worked two days to prepare. It was a let down to not have any of the adorable “smash cake” pictures to add to her scrapbook.

Of course, she doesn’t even remember these events, but laughs hysterically as the family recounts the tale. At her age now, she cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want chocolate cake! And as disappointed as I was at that time, it has all worked out because now our family has its very own unique first birthday story, the story of the Birthday Cheese!

Does your family have any quirky birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear about them!

Today’s Recipes

It’s probably no surprise that my kid still loves cheese. Our whole family does, really, so of course a lot of my recipes have a cheese component. Honestly, we should eat less cheese. But it’s just so good!

My first recipe today is for these Ultimate Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes. They’re not fast, taking between 1 1/2 and 2 hours to prepare, but sometimes eating a traditional slow baked potato is the ultimate comfort food. That holds true with these potatoes stuffed with three cheeses, bacon, and broccoli. This works well as a main dish or an impressive side for family gatherings or entertaining.

Ultimate Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes

Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish.


  • 4 large Russet baking potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 1/2 small yellow onion
  • 1 12-oz pkg. frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


Set oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Wash and dry potatoes. Rub with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.

Remove from oven to cool while preparing the filling ingredients.

In large skillet, fry bacon crisp; remove to paper towels to drain.

In same skillet, fry onions until golden; add broccoli and cook until soft.

In large bowl, place cream cheese, parmesan, and cheddar cheese.

Cut potatoes in half, length-wise. Scoop out the majority of the potato pulp and place in bowl with cheeses. Be very careful while doing this, potatoes may be hot inside! Also, be careful to not scoop out too much of the potato or the shell will fall apart and be hard to fill later.

Place hollowed potato “boats” back onto foil-lined pan used to bake the potatoes.

Add salt, pepper, and buttermilk to potato and cheese mixture. Mash with potato masher.

Crumble bacon into the bowl. Add cooked broccoli and onions. Stir to combine.

Place a generous portion of this filling into each of the potato halves on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for an additional 15 minutes.

For my second recipe today, we’re going to make a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar. With only six ingredients, this is a super simple dessert you can make and take to just about any gathering. I cut my pan into a dozen bars, but you could cut your bars smaller and get more servings.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars


  • 1 30-oz roll Pillsbury refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, divided
  • 2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla


Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut 12 slices of cookie dough from the roll. This will be approximately half the roll, maybe a little more. Place the 12 slices of cookie dough on the bottom of the prepared pan and press together with your hands.

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until combined. Add egg, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add salt and vanilla and mix.

Take remaining cookie dough and chop into small pieces. Gently fold the cookie dough into the cream cheese mixture.

Pour batter over cookie dough in pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Bars will be done when edges are golden brown and the top no longer jiggles. The pan I used is not shallow, so my cheesecake layer was thicker and needed the full 60 minutes to bake.

Remove from oven and place on wire cooling rack. Allow to cool for two hours, then transfer to refrigerator. When set, cut into bars and place on tray.

To serve, you can top each bar with some whipped cream, if desired.