Keto No-Bake Cheesecake

Several months ago, my husband and I decided to try the Keto way of eating. I had always assumed Keto just mean no sugar or bread. Actually, a true Keto diet is low natural carbs, sufficient protein and high keto-approved fats. We have relied heavily on Dr. Ken Berry and his excellent YouTube videos on the topic. We also recommend Dr. Sten Ekberg and Dr. Eric Berg.

This cheesecake has become our go-to dessert for company. Even people not “doing keto” love it. Using the Monk Fruit Sweetener means no weird aftertaste. (We buy it at Costco but Amazon also sells it.)

Keto No-Bake Cheesecake

For the crust:
1 ½ cup finely ground pecans
4 tbsp real butter, melted
1 tbsp granulated Monk Fruit Classic  
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
1/2 cup cold water
2 packets unflavored gelatin powder
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated Monk Fruit Classic
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, well drained
2 tbsp vanilla extract


  1. Lightly grease a glass bottom 9″ springform pan. Set aside. (Mine is textured and doesn’t require this.)
  2. To make the crust, combine the monk fruit and melted butter, then stir in the ground pecans and vanilla extract until combined. Press the mixture firmly and evenly against the bottom of the springform pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. To make the filling, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the gelatin is fully incorporated and let sit for about 5 minutes. Microwave on high for 20 seconds or until the gelatin is dissolved and liquid. Set aside.
  4. Place the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, vanilla and sweetener in a bowl. Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy. Scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  5. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle the warm gelatin into the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until well combined. Pour the filling over the cake base and smooth with spatula.
  6. Refrigerate for minimum 6 hours or overnight.
  7. To serve, take the cheesecake out of the refrigerator. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and unmold the cake.
  8. Top slices with berries and/or keto chocolate sauce and serve.

Tip: I just melt a few Tbls of real butter, add some granulated Monk Fruit (to taste) and about 3 Tbls. of high-fat dark cocoa to make a quick and easy keto friendly chocolate sauce.

Tape Measures

So how is Keto going? Really well! Both of us have eliminated medications and noticed a huge reduction in joint and muscle inflammation. It’s nice to get out of bed in the morning without feeling 80 years old! We expected the reduction of belly fat, but were surprised to also have skin tags fall off (they are due to insulin levels!), to discover our skin becoming more youthful looking and a notice a drastic reduction in the size of my lymphomas. (Fatty tumors that I’ve had to have surgically removed before.) Check out the experts’ videos mentioned above and see if you think it is right for you. And in the meantime, enjoy the cheesecake!

Reverse Image Search – A How To Guide

As a stock photographer, it’s always fascinating to see where my images end up. It is also annoying when dishonest people try to sell photos they’ve stolen off of websites or downloaded from free wallpaper galleries. Whether you are looking for your own images “in the wild” or wanting to confirm a copyright violation so you can report it, knowing how to do a reverse image search is imperative.

I usually use TinEye when looking to see if photos are available on other stock photography sites to prove ownership. I use Google when trying to find my own images in use online. A good website for finding the source of foreign pictures is Yandex. There are other reverse image search engines, but I’ll focus on TinEye and Google. Each give different results, which is why using several sites can be important, especially before reporting copyright violations.

Reverse search using TinEye

Right click on the photo you want to look for and choose “View Image” from the menu.

You will see a screen with just the image on it.

Highlight the image’s URL and copy that link.

Open another tab and go to

Paste the image’s URL that you copied into the search bar and hit “Enter.”

Results will look like this.

Sometimes I need to check the “found in stock” box to see what other stock sites an image is for sale on.

Click on the link for each site to see its listing there.

This part takes extra diligence if you are looking to report someone for copyright violation! Not everyone sells their images under the same name on each site. You should always compare galleries to see if they contain some of the same photos. For example, I sell under MargJohnsonVA but my Instagram account is BeachLoversLane and my Flickr accounts are CaymanDesigns and MyLanternHill. A different name DOESN’T mean a photo was stolen.

Always confirm an image is really a copyright violation before flagging it.

Reverse Search using Google

Repeat the first three steps above and then open a tab for Google Images.

Click on the camera icon to switch to the Search By Image option.

Paste the photos URL link and hit enter.

Google will sometimes show you other stock websites an image is on, but it most useful for finding what websites have purchased and are using your photos.

It’s always thrilling to my images being used on a well-known website like U.S. News and World Report!

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful!

Check back for more information on why some legitimate images get flagged by the Twenty20 autobot system as “stolen” or copyright violations when they aren’t. Have any topics you want me to cover? Email me at

Aunt Gin’s Vegetable Soup

My husband’s great aunt, Virginia Folds, used to make this for him in a pressure cooker. I’ve tweaked it a bit so I can make it in a crock-pot. Yes, there is sugar in the soup. It was Aunt Gin’s “secret ingredient.” She put it in everything. It just wouldn’t be her soup without it!

Aunt Gin’s Vegetable Soup

1 lb. stew meat, or chicken breast cut into cubes
2 potatoes; chopped
32 oz. canned diced tomatoes
1 can corn, with juice
1 can green beans, with juice
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chopped cabbage*
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup celery
salt and pepper to taste

Combine in large crock-pot. Cook on low at least 8-10 hours. You can use home canned or store bought vegetables.
I have found it best to freeze leftovers after 24 hours or the onion flavor really starts to get strong. If that doesn’t bother you, you can store it for several days in the refrigerator and reheat as needed.
*I use bagged of coleslaw mix.

Bread Machine Rolls

These rolls are perfect for when you want fresh bread but using a hand-kneaded recipe isn’t convenient. They are especially handy on Thanksgiving or any other time you are cooking a big meal. The bread machine does all the work and you still end up with warm fluffy, flavorful dinner rolls to serve. Originally from Quick Cooking Magazine.

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

1 cup warm milk
1⁄2 cup butter, softened
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour
2 1⁄4 teaspoons active dry yeast

In bread machine pan, put all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting. When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 24 portions. Shape dough into balls. Place in 2 greased 8-9 inch round baking pans.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter, if desired. Bake at 350°F for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown.

The recipe can be halved as well.

More Photography Hacks

I have a shower curtain liner in my camera bag. Do you? You should! It is one of the extras that I use the most frequently. If the ground is wet or muddy or sandy, I can spread the lightweight liner out in a few seconds and kneel or lie down without messing my camera or my clothes up.

It also comes in handy if it starts to precipitate and I need to cover my equipment quickly. I can also hide under it and change lenses in windy conditions, especially when there is blowing sand or mist. Protecting the inside of your camera is vital for keeping spots off your sensor.

As I’ve mentioned before, perspective is important in photography. A few weeks ago, we had a heavy dew and thick fog one morning. I noticed an elaborate spiderweb in the yard. I was feeling lazy and tried to take pictures of it from a stooped position with my telephoto lens.

While pretty, I knew I wasn’t capturing the fog too. I finally went and got my shower curtain liner, changed to my micro lens and took more photos while lying flat on my stomach. The resulting shot was worth the extra effort, in my opinion.

(On a side note, I always keep another liner in the linen closet to protect the floor and bedding if anyone comes down with a stomach bug. Trust me, it saves a ton of laundry!!)

Another handy, inexpensive addition to my camera bag is a 99¢ spray bottle with water in it.

It’s small enough to fit in an outside camera bag pocket, which means I don’t have worry about it leaking on my equipment. It comes in super handy if during a photoshoot the morning dew starts to evaporate or doesn’t exist to begin with. I’ve used it on everything from flowers to grapes to fruit.

Let me know if you carry anything unusual in your camera bag and why!

Thanks for reading and happy snapping!

Peach Clafoutis

A number of years ago, a friend shared this French dessert recipe with me. It is similar to a cobbler in that you can use any kind of fruit you want in it. Apple, peach, cherries, berries etc. Whatever is in season. However, the dish itself is more like a cross between a crepe and a custard. You can serve it as dessert or even for breakfast.

Ready to head into the oven.

It’s very simple to make since you use the blender for the batter, while still being delicious and impressive. If you can, use good quality free-range, farm-fresh eggs. I get mine from a neighbor, and they greatly add to the quality of the dish.

Creamy custard goodness!

BTW, sometimes the American dish is spelled clafouti. Both are pronounced kläfo͞oˈtē.

The batter needs to chill for 30 minutes, so take that into consideration when preparing it. The cook time varies depending on the size dish you use. I use a oval casserole dish, which makes it thicker and take closer to 55-60 minutes to cook.

Peach Clafoutis

3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup plain fat-free yogurt, regular or Greek
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
5 cups sliced peaches, about 1 1/2 lbs
cooking spray or butter

Preheat oven to 400°F
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup, level with a knife.
Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through eggs) in a blender, process until smooth. Chill 30 minutes.
Arrange peaches in a 13×9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray or butter. Pour batter over fruit.
Bake at 400°F for 35 minutes or until set. The edges should be brown and the center fairly firm.

Serve immediately or at room temperature. Dust with confectioner’s sugar right before serving. Also good cold.

Serve warm or cold.

Favorite Virginia Wineries – Part 2

All about the Reds

For the most part, I am a white wine drinker. So when a red impresses me, it is a noteworthy experience. Ox-Eye Vineyards holds the distinction of offering me the first red wine I ever liked. Their Lemberger is a full-bodied red but the tannins are soft enough that I love it, especially with a steaks on the grill. As an added bonus, they make their Shy Ox Rose and Ruby Ox Port style fortified wine from the same Blaufränkisch grape. I enjoy Shy Ox in the summer and the port is especially lovely in front the fire in the winter.

A Virginia Sunset

They have a picturesque Tasting Room in downtown Historic Staunton. There is a cozy nook on the first floor with comfy chairs for chatting with friends or reading a good book while enjoying a glass of wine. Upstairs, there is a large room with tables and chairs accented by an art gallery featuring local artists. But my favorite spot to unwind with a glass of vino is the back patio which offers lovely breezes and plenty of cover. I’ve even been known to have a birthday gathering or two there.

Ox-Eye Tasting Room patio

This past summer, my daughter and I both hit milestone ages. We decided to take a mini wine tour to celebrate. When we visited Keswick Vineyards, we were surprised to discover we liked all the red wines they had to offer. They impressed me so much that the very next day I took my husband and some friends back so they could try them too, even though the winery is an hour away. Everyone enjoyed the tasting so much that we also purchased a bottle of their Les Vents d’Anges Rives Red, which is a blend, and savored it in one of their comfy outdoor seating areas.

Keswick Porch

They offer a unique experience called a Consensus Blending Party each year. This is a competition that allows hundreds of guests divided into small teams to compete for the best red wine blend. Whichever one wins is bottled under the Consensus label and there is a photo book to commemorate the day. Someday, I hope to participate!

Keswick outdoor seating area

If you love reds, or are trying to find some that you will like, I recommend you visiting Ox-Eye and Keswick Vineyards!

Change your Perspective and Change your Photo

One of the things I always stress to my photography students is that you need to move around when taking pictures. A different perspective can greatly enhance an image. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking a few steps. Occasionally, it means squatting down or climbing up on a ladder or chair. It is unusual for the first approach to be the best one.

Yesterday, I reinforced this lesson to myself when I finally spotted an owl in the wild. Photographing one has been on my Bucket List for years. Who am I kidding? I’ve longed to just SEE one in nature for years. I was so excited, that I grabbed my camera and started shooting without thinking about settings. Unfortunately, I had just been taking pictures of moving objects so I was on Shutter Priority and my first several shots looked like this.

I quickly changed settings while feverishly hoping he wouldn’t fly away! Things got a little better, but then I realized how back lit he was against the sky.

I knew I could correct the exposure with my editing software, but I really wasn’t pleased with the almost white background. That’s when I realized I needed to follow my own advice. I slowly moved several steps to the left until the background was blue sky for some color, but that actually made the exposure worse.

Carefully, I continued to creep farther to the left until the trees across the way were behind him. Voilà! Success!!

On a side note, this is why editing software can be so valuable when working with less than ideal conditions. It can help you capture what you saw with your eyes. If I had spooked the owl and not gotten the final shots, I would have at least had some lovely shots of him against the sky.

I think there is something magical about this shot. Even though it was about 62°F out, it seems like something straight out of a frosty snow globe scene. Playing around with some of my special effects options enhanced the impression.

Favorite Virginia Wineries – Part 1

The Commonwealth of Virginia has 270+ wineries and that number keeps on growing. I recently started placing pins in my wine map to keep track of the ones I have visited and was surprised to see I’m at 59.

Marking each location gave me the opportunity to reflect on my visits. I quickly realized that I had favorites, for a variety of reasons, along with a few I wouldn’t bother revisiting anytime soon. I’m going to dedicate the next several posts, in no particulate order, to sharing which tasting rooms I’m most fond of, and why they made the list.

Pollak Vineyards

The only winery we have ever felt compelled to join the wine club.

A lot of the local vineyards I had heard of because of attending Wine Festivals. But Pollak wasn’t one of them. Occasionally, someone would ask if we had ever been there and then would seem surprised we hadn’t. We finally decided to look them up and take a ride over the mountain to visit one Saturday.

It was fairly packed when we arrived. A gentleman came out from behind the bar and invited us to sit at a table by the fireplace where he would present their wines. We were impressed. As our tasting proceeded, we discovered he was the General Manager. His knowledge of the winery’s history and the stories behind each wine just enhanced the experience. We both enjoyed each and every wine, which is unique for this white vs. red wine-loving couple.

We had planned on maybe visiting another winery or two, but instead, we ordered a bottle of their Durant White along with some fresh bread and a charcuterie and cheese selection. We found a table on the balcony overlooking the mountains and lake and simply relaxed for awhile. We also decided we weren’t leaving without joining their wine club. Something we had never even considered at other wineries. We enjoyed the wines and atmosphere too much to pass it up.

Some of the things we love are: it’s close enough we can visit frequently and yet far enough away that the views are different than in the Valley. We get free tastings each time and keep being impressed with the quality of the wine. It is a lovely place to hang out and unwind, inside or out.

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Once I tried this recipe, I quickly ditched the traditional one made with evaporated milk. This one is so much creamier! Plus, since it isn’t as thin, it is easier to get it into the oven without spilling it. (Klutz alert!) Just be careful not to over beat it so you don’t beat too much air into the eggs.

The Best Pumpkin Pie

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 (15 ounce) can solid pumpkin puree
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk*
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
With a hand mixer on low, beat the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices, and salt together.
Pour into prepared pie crust.
Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F; bake 35 to 40 minutes longer OR until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean.
Cool. Serve with whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

*NOT evaporated milk!

Creamy Baked Apples

You’ve never had baked apples like this before! This is an old family recipe that is ‘required’ at Thanksgiving but eaten all year round. The original recipe from my husband’s great grandmother called for baking the apples in the oven. I was in a hurry one day and tried the microwave and no one could tell a difference. The smaller the apple slices, the quicker they cook. Be careful not to over cook them though, or they start turning into applesauce. Still tasty, but not as pretty.

It works fine to use light butter and/or reduced fat milk to trim a few calories. The leftovers are delicious cold or reheated.

Creamy Baked Apples

3-4 large granny smith or Winesap apples
cinnamon sugar
1 1⁄2 tablespoons flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
nutmeg (optional)

Peel, core and slice apples. Place in a baking dish, and dot with butter.
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar.
Bake in microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes or until fork inserts easily, stirring at least once.
Remove from microwave and set aside.
In saucepan bring flour, sugar and milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will be thick.
Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir well.
Pour over apples and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg if you desire.
Serve hot or warm.



Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. It is usually what she requests for her birthday. Which is okay with the rest of the family because we all love it. It’s an excellent choice when you need to serve something to guest, especially if you need a meatless dish. It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. (Thaw on the counter before cooking.) I’ve even cooked them in the crock-pot. It works best to double the sauce so they don’t dry out in the crock-pot.

Stuffed Shells

Cheese filling:
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1/2 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1/8 tsp. pepper

1 (32 oz.) jar marinara sauce
1 large box large shell pasta

Mix all ingredients for cheese filling thoroughly.
Cook manicotti pasta according to package directions. Drain; handling carefully, stuff each shell with 1/3-1/2 c. of cheese filling. (I use a large spoon and eyeball it.)
Cover the bottom of a 3 quart baking dish with a thin layer of spaghetti sauce. Lay shells side by side. Pour remaining sauce over stuffed shells. Sprinkle top with extra Parmesan cheese. Bake ate 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Buttermilk Doughnuts

Homemade doughnuts are the ultimate comfort food. Warm, fluffy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth perfection.  Surprisingly, they are also fairly easy to make. I think the key to success is using in a Fry Daddy. It keeps the oil at the perfect temperature, which prevents the dough from absorbing too much oil. A word to the wise, don’t try substituting ANY of the ingredients called for or you’ll regret it. Don’t ask how I know…

Buttermilk Doughnuts

1 Tbls. dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbls. shortening, melted
3 Tbls. sugar
2 1/2-3 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 1/2 cup sifted powder sugar
1/4 cup milk

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add buttermilk, melted shortening and sugar.
In a separate bowl combine 1 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt; mix into wet ingredients using a wooden spoon. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead several times. Roll dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut with a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter. Place doughnuts on lightly floured surface, (I use cookie sheets) cover and let rise 45 minutes or until double in bulk. Heat 2-3 inches of oil to 375°F. Drop in 2-3 doughnuts at a time. Cook about 2 minutes or until lightly golden in color, turning once. Drain well on paper towels.
Combine 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk, stir until smooth. Dip each doughnut in glaze while still warm; allow excess glaze to drip off. Cool on wire rack or serve warm.
Yields 12-14 doughnuts

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Years ago, I found a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins in a Taste of Home magazine. It quickly became one of our favorite quick breads. They are excellent for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert. I’ve tweaked the ingredients and amounts over the years to make them healthier and tastier. Below, is the version we prefer.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

4 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil or light-tasting EVOO
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 (16 ounce) can solid packed pumpkin
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semisweet mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix first 6 ingredients together with a wooden spoon. (You can use any combination of oil and unsweetened applesauce, as long as it totals 1 1/2 cups. I’ve found that you need to use at least 1/4 cup oil, or the muffins end up gummy.)
Separately, mix dry ingredients in another bowl. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet mixture by hand, fold in chocolate chips. (Regular sized chocolate chips work fine too. We just prefer mini.)
Generously fill 24-30 greased muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 16-20 minutes.

If you double bag them in Freezer Zip-loc storage bags, they freeze beautifully. Just let them thaw on the counter for a couple hours.

If you’d like to make mini muffins, bake them for about 10 minutes.

A Lesson in Lighting

We all know lighting can set the mood, or ruin it, in real life. While taking photos this morning of my Avocado Toast, I was reminded of how true this is in photography as well. The ambiance you are trying to express may dictate how you light your shot.

These images were taken within minutes of each other with the exact same light source; a window on my left. The early morning sunlight was streaming in brightly. It made for some harsh shadows with a lot of contrast. Because of this, it is easy to establish the setting as early morning.

Adding a diffuser between the plate and window and a reflector on the right to bounce some of the light back, and the same setting becomes a little more generic.

It could still be morning, but how early or late in the day? It could also be a midnight snack or supper.

Lighting plays a very important role in establishing or removing a set time in your images, as well as, in creating mood.