Avery’s Play Kitchen

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I knew once I saw this kitchen on Lay Baby Lay I wanted one EXACTLY like it.  Thankfully my hubby is super talented and handy and with the help of his dad, he managed to get this kitchen done in just a couple of days and right in time for Avery’s first birthday party!

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Avery helps me in the kitchen a lot (which really means that she wants me to hold her all the time so I am usually cooking with her in my arms!) so I thought she’d love her own kitchen and it would be one that she can play with for a few years.  I’m hoping she likes to cook and bake like her mama! (Check her out in her ruffle butt and baby apron that her grandma made!  Too cuuuuuuute!)

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Just in case you missed her smash cake and first birthday party photos, you can check them out here and here!  We had the best time celebrating our little stinker butt!  (She’ll hate that nickname someday I’m sure but for now it fits haha.)

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Rainbow Sprinkles & Confetti FIRST Birthday Party!

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I have been looking forward to my daughter’s first birthday party since the day she was born.  And let me tell you…I spent WAY too much money and time on it!  Hah!  But I can also say it was totally worth it. 🙂  I LOVE planning dessert tables so Avery’s party was my excuse to go ALL.  OUT.  But first…a theme.  Omg the freaking theme.  I cannot tell you how many Pinterest boards and Google pages I searched for the PERFECT theme.  Ya know, the one that someone hadn’t already done 50,000 times.  Yeah…not finding it.  Barbie, Paris, owls, hearts, rainbows, ladybugs, cupcakes…done, done and SO done.  I was really wanting something unique but in the end I settled on Sprinkles and Confetti!  Rainbow Sprinkles and Confetti.  I figured it would be cute and fairly simple.

Ok, would have been simple if I hadn’t made it super complicated.  I’m talented like that.  In the end we had somewhere around 100 confetti filled balloons, seven different sprinkle coated desserts and one very happy birthday girl!

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We had so much stuff dipped in white chocolate and sprinkles…Oreos, strawberry wafers, pretzel rods, strawberries, donut hole “cake” pops.  And of course we had gumballs, homemade marshmallows and a gorgeous cake with a balloon on the top!  It was fun seeing everyone enjoy all the treats but especially fun to see Avery eat her first homemade marshmallow!  She loved it. 🙂

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She also loved her second smash cake.  Think she might have preferred the bad-for-you version a little bit more than my healthy one.  Hah!

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It was the best birthday party and even though I went totally overboard and she won’t remember one single thing, I’ll treasure it forever and obviously show her all the pictures from her fabulous party!  😉

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First Birthday Cake Smash!

Cake

Ok, I am FINALLY getting around to doing a series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to do since my daughter’s first birthday in April!  I wanted to share photos and details from her cake smash, birthday party and the AMAZING kitchen my hubby built her for her big gift and decided to just make three separate blog posts out of each.  I’m starting with her cake smash!  I wanted to do these photos because I just wasn’t sure she would get into the cake at her birthday party with all the excitement and all the people around and was afraid I wouldn’t get any good pictures.  So one Saturday morning I threw together this cake (literally threw it together in about 10 minutes and had it in the oven!) and we set up a little photo area in our dining room to do the pics.

Eating Cake 1

I wasn’t sure how she would do even during these photos because she’s never had cake and really nothing sweet except fruit!  She did pretty good though.  Wasn’t going crazy with the cake like I hoped she would and I basically had to prompt her and break off pieces to try.  She can be VERY resistant to new food!  But she did ok and we got some fun pics.  She honestly was more into picking the sprinkles off the cake one by one and then of course got distracted very easily by the balloons!  I was pleased overall though with the photos and glad we did it before her actual party!

Eating Cake 2

Eating Cake 3

Now as for the cake…I agonized for a long time whether I even wanted her to have cake for her birthday.  I like to keep things pretty healthy around here, especially when it comes to what she eats but eventually decided I would do at least do a healthy cake for her cake smash photos.  And I have to say I thought this cake was delicious!  It was a little on the dense side but so moist and yummy.  All I had on hand was sucanat so I used that and it gave the cake a richer flavor which was very good but I’d like to try it again with xylitol.  I layered it with 100% fruit strawberry jam and attempted to frost it with this recipe for whipped coconut frosting.  UGH.  This method of frosting did NOT work for me.  It was barely solid and more like whipped cream.  Apparently it works for a lot of people but not me!  So I really can’t recommend it for this cake.  Overall though I was pleased with the results and felt like this was a great, healthier alternative for a cake!  Hope you enjoy the pics!  We had a lot of fun. 🙂

Healthy Kid Smash Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 1⅓ c. Almond Milk
  • 1½ T. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1½ T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. plus 1 T. Safflower Oil
  • 2 Eggs, room temperature
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 T. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ⅔ c. plus ¼ c. Sucanat (I would do xylitol for a more neutral flavor. Sucanat is richer and more like brown sugar.)
  • 100% Fruit Strawberry Jam
  • Frosting (Your choice, healthy or not. I can't recommend the coconut frosting, unfortunately.)
  • Sprinkles, etc.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3, 5-inch cake pans with coconut oil and whole wheat pastry flour. Line with parchment paper. In a small bowl combine first five ingredients and whisk well. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (except jam and frosting, obviously). Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just evenly combined. Divide evenly among the three pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes (mine took 25) until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely and then remove from pans. Place first layer on a cake plate/stand, spread with jam, layer with second cake layer, more jam and third and final cake layer on top. Cover with frosting and decor of choice.

 

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Chilled Peach Soup

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It’s HOT already where I live so baking a lot of desserts in my oven and heating my house up even more is really not too appealing to me these days.  Which is why I love this chilled peach soup!  It’s the perfect summertime dessert and, oh yeah, it’s AMAZING.  The first spoonful of this immediately had me thinking of a peach cobbler like grandma makes except, well, with alcohol and obviously no crust!  It’s creamy, cold and just really, really good.  Top it with some homemade whipped cream and a couple sprigs of fresh mint and dessert is served!

Enjoy!

Chilled Peach Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Sparkling White Wine (I used a Spumante)
  • 1 c. Peach Schnapps
  • ½ c. Sugar
  • 1 t. Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
  • ½ t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 c. Half and Half
  • 10 Large, Fresh Peaches, sliced
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients except peaches in a large bowl and whisk until well blended and sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a high powered blender (I used a Vitamix) and add peaches (you might have to do this in two batches). Blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate until chilled.
Notes
Serves 10.

 

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Coconut Rum Dark Devil’s Food Layer Cake

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A couple of months ago our Gourmet Cooking Club was Caribbean themed and I made these AMAZING Jerk Salmon Tostadas with Grilled Pineapple Peach Coconut Salsa along with a little layer cake.  Ok, it wasn’t a little cake…it was freaking huge!  Kind of on accident.  I wanted to make a four-layer cake so I just thought, oh I’ll double this cake recipe and have four layers!  Well, this is a GREAT idea if you want a cake the size of Mt. Vesuvius.  Seriously, I had two layers of this cake stacked and  was getting worried.  It was big.  Too big.  I then remembered that in the past when I wanted a four layer cake, I just made two cakes and SPLIT THEM IN HALF.  Oh, right.  Needless to say I pressed on and managed to get all four layers stacked, filled and frosted without any major mishaps.  But enough about that, you just want to know how it tasted right?  Of course you do!

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I wanted to incorporate Caribbean flavors into the cake so coconut and rum seemed like a no brainer but I wanted to have a little twist so I thought chocolate cake would be perfect.  This devil’s food cake is probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.  The original recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiciton.  I just swapped in some dark cocoa for the light and upped the amount of vanilla a little.  The coconut filling reminded me of a Mounds bar and the coconut frosting was perfect.  My only complaint is that my rum simple syrup really got lost and didn’t come through like I wanted it to.  I thought I had really put enough rum in the syrup (and by enough I mean A LOT more than the recipe called for) and I brushed it pretty generously over each layer, but I couldn’t taste it that well which was a total bummer!  However, I still LOVED this cake and would definitely make it again, especially the devil’s food cake part.  Divine.

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Enjoy!

Coconut Rum Dark Devil's Food Layer Cake
 
Ingredients
For the Cake*
  • 3½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 3½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ¾ c. Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • 4 t. Baking Soda
  • 2 t. Salt
  • 2 c. Buttermilk
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. Freshly Brewed Strong Hot Coffee
  • *Note: The ingredient amounts listed are because I doubled the original recipe to get 4, 9-inch cakes. It made a HUGE layered cake. It may be more manageable to halve the recipe for 2, 9-inch cakes and then split those in half horizontally in order to make four layers.
For the Rum Simple Syrup
  • ¼ c., plus 2 T. Sugar
  • ¼ c., plus 2 T. Water
  • ½ c., plus 2 T. Spiced Rum
For the Coconut Filling
  • 21 oz. Sweetened, Shredded Coconut (1½, 14 oz. Bags)
  • 21 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk (1½, 14 oz. Cans)
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
For the Coconut Buttercream
  • 4½ Sticks Unsalted Butter, slightly softened
  • ⅓ c., plus 3 T. Cream of Coconut (in the can by the drink mixers in the liquor section)
  • ½ c., plus 1 T. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 7½ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 T. Coconut Extract
Other
  • 2 c. Toasted Coconut (for garnish, if desired)
Instructions
For the Dark Devil's Food Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour and line with parchment paper four, 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powders, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla on medium speed until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low. Add the coffee. The batter will be VERY thin. This is ok.
  4. Pour the batter in to prepared baking pans and bake for 23-27 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. My cakes took about 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before assembling cake. Or if you are making the cake in stages, allow the layers to cool for about 10 minutes, flip out of pans and remove parchment paper and wrap in foil. Store in freezer until ready to thaw and use. This will yield a SUPER moist cake.
For the Rum Simple Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the water and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is completely dissolved. This will only take a couple of minutes. Let cool completely, then stir in the rum.
For the Coconut Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Coconut Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, salt, cream of coconut and heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed. Turn to low and gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla and coconut extracts.
To Assembly Cake
  1. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Brush with ⅓ of the rum simple syrup. Spoon on ⅓ of the coconut filling and spread evenly. Repeat with second and third layers. Place fourth cake layer on top and spread a thin layer of crumb coat icing over entire cake. Place in the refrigerator until firm. Remove and finish frosting entire cake with the buttercream. Garnish with toasted coconut. Optional: I dipped maraschino cherries in white chocolate and toasted coconut and used them to decorate the top of the cake.
Notes
Serves 12-16.

 

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Chocolate Chip and Coconut Almond Meal Cookies

Chocolate Chip and Coconut Almond Meal Cookies

I have been making almond milk for my one year old for the past couple of months.  We are dairy free in our household  for many reasons (ok, except for the occasional Andy’s treat), one being that almond milk has a TON more calcium than cow milk.  I love the fact that you can not only make your own homemade almond milk which is FAR better than even the healthiest store bought kind, but you can also use the pulp that is left to make your own almond flour (or you might see it labeled as almond meal in the store).  And it’s all so easy!  But the downside is that if you have an almost toddler  who drinks as much milk as mine (I say almost because she is ALMOST walking on her own and to me that is when she will no longer be a baby *tear*), you are making it ALL. THE. TIME.  And it leaves you with almond flour coming out your ears!!!  Thankfully, there are so many awesome recipes these days using almond flour.  Many vegan and gluten-free recipes use almond flour so hopefully it won’t be any problem using all this stuff up!

I’ve baked with almond flour before and had amazing results.  These Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins are still one of my favorite muffin recipes.  When I came across this recipe for almond meal cookies with chocolate chips and coconut, I had to try them and they turned out so good.  When I say so good I mean the kind of good that I can probably never make them again because my husband and I ate them in like, two days.  All of them.  Eeek.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Almond Meal Cookies

They reminded me of a cross between a super soft, thick graham cracker cookie and an almond joy.  I mean…kind of delicious.  The ingredients are nutritious and if you can limit yourself to just one or two then you’ve got a perfectly suitable (and in my opinion better) substitution for a run of the mill chocolate chip cookie.  So if you’ve never used almond flour before, I definitely recommend starting with this recipe!

Enjoy!

Original recipe here.

P.S. Mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as theirs!

Chocolate Chip and Coconut Almond Meal Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ c. Almond Meal
  • ½ t. Baking Powder
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • ½ c. Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut
  • ⅓ c. Sucanat or Coconut Sugar (I used Sucanat and processed mine in my Vitamix dry attachment until it was finely ground)
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 3 T. Coconut Oil, melted
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. Bittersweet/Dark Chocolate Chips (I would chop them next time for finer pieces..the big chips made it a bit difficult for the cookies to hold together)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. In a small bowl whisk together egg, coconut oil and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape dough into 1½-inch balls, place on baking sheets and press down slightly with the palm of your hand.
  3. Bake until edges begin to brown, 7-10 minutes (mine took 8), rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Let cool completely on wire racks and store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes about 18 cookies.

 

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Dark Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

Skillet Cookie Sundae

I have always wanted to make a cookie in a cast-iron skillet and this past Mother’s Day I finally had my chance.  I’ve seen a lot of recipes for them and they always looks so absolutely thick and chewy and decadent and warm and gooey and…   Well, you get the idea, I could go on and on with the descriptive words here.  But I won’t.  They practically beg to be eaten straight from the pan with a huge scoop of homemade ice cream on top.  We were a bit more civilized when I made it for my husband’s family and managed to eat it properly, in our own individual bowls.  😉

Skillet Cookie

I have to say that I LOVED this cookie.  To me, it was everything a chocolate chip cookie should be–slightly chewy but still soft with a tiny but of crisp to the very outer edge.  It was a little richer than your typical chocolate chip cookie due to the brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate chips.  We topped ours with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, toasted coconut, sprinkles and a cherry, of course!  It was the perfect treat after dinner and would actually make a GREAT Father’s Day dessert.  I don’t know a dad who wouldn’t love this cookie.  Or anyone for that matter!

Enjoy!

Original Recipe Source:  Tasty Kitchen

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • ½ c. Sugar
  • ½ c. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (or semi-sweet, etc)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in sugars and vanilla and remove from heat. Let rest until pan is warm, but no longer very hot, about 5 minutes.
  2. Crack an egg onto the butter and sugar mixture and use a fork to whisk it into the mixture. Place flour baking soda and salt on top and carefully stir into the mixture until smooth and well-mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes (mine took 25) or until starting to turn golden on the top and around the edges, but still soft in the center. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

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Brown Butter Oatmeal Blondies with White Chocolate and Coconut

Brown Butter Blondies White Choc Coconut

When I’m in a time crunch (which is OFTEN these days with a one year old!) but REALLY want to bake, I think “ok, what can I throw in a pan and just bake all at once?!”  Obviously brownies come to mind immediately but sometimes I want something that doesn’t involve chocolate.  Crazy, I know!  Blondies are great for curing that sweet craving and take no time at all.  These particular blondies are deliciously rich and chewy.  They start with browned butter (YUM) and finish with loads of oats, white chocolate and shredded, sweetened coconut.  Doesn’t that just sound amazing?!  I enjoyed one (ok, two) of these with a steaming cup of coffee!  I highly recommend you do the same. 🙂

Enjoy!

Brown Butter Oatmeal Blondies with White Chocolate and Coconut
 
Ingredients
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter
  • ½ c. Sugar
  • ½ c. Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ t. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1 c. White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 c. Sweetened, Shredded Coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and 8x8 baking pan. Brown the butter in a pan over medium heat until it just begins to turn brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Gently stir in oats, chocolate chips and coconut. Pour batter into pan and press until it's even in the pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely and cut into squares.
Notes
Makes 16.

Brown Butter Blondie White Choc Coconut

 

 

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Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookie

I think I might be on of the only people who have never had Mexican Wedding Cookies.  I made them to take to our Gourmet Cooking Club because our theme was Mexican and everyone started talking about how they LOVE Russian Teacakes.  Say what?!  Apparently they have many different names–Russian Teacakes, Russian Wedding Cookies, Snowballs, Butterballs and probably more that I don’t even know about!  What I do know is that they are incredibly simple and incredibly good.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

They are the kind of cookie that I really can’t have around because they are so delicious and not too rich which means I have a problem eating just one.  If you’ve never had them before, they are similar to a shortbread but not as dry and crumbly.  Much more tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  I loved the flavor from the toasted pecans and slight saltiness along with the sweetness from the powdered sugar both in and on the cookie.   You can have a batch whipped up in literally minutes.  They almost take longer to bake than they do to cook!  They are absolutely delicious and perfect with coffee.

Enjoy!

Mexican Wedding Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 c. Powdered Sugar, divided
  • 1 T. Vanilla
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Pecans, finely chopped and toasted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, ½ c. of the powdered sugar and the vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the flour and salt, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended. Mix in the pecans. Shape dough into 1½-inch balls and place on baking sheets.
  3. Bake 15-18 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets. Roll warm cookies in the remaining ½ c. powdered sugar until evenly coated. Place on wire racks and let cool completely. Store in an air tight container at room temperature.
Notes
Makes 24

 

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Easter Sweets 2014

I haven’t done a recipe roundup in QUITE awhile and thought it was high time I bring you some of the best, brightest and cutest dessert ideas from around the blog world!  If only I had more time I’d make every. single. one. of these but we’re a little short on time these days so I will probably have to be satisfied with picking up some mini robin eggs at the store and eating ALL of them while I drool over these pics.  Doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea, huh?

Hope you find some inspiration for your Easter!

Down the Bunny Hole Push-Up Pop Treats

Down the Rabbit Hole Push Pops

Cadbury Egg Easter Trifle

Cadbury Egg Trifle

Funfetti Cake Balls

Funfetti Cake Balls

Speckled Egg Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Speckled Egg Cake

Carrot Cake Fudge

Carrot Cake Fudge

Krispy Easter Eggs

Krispy Eggs

Funny Bunny Cookies

Funny Bunny Cookies

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter

Easter Cupcakes

Bunny Tails

Bunny Tails

 

 

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No Bake Oreo Cheesecake

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Top

Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, if not my all-time favorite.  I’ve made a few…Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, Gingerbread Cheesecake, New York Style Lemon Cheesecake and one of my all time favorites and very first recipes, a layered Red Velvet Cheesecake cake.  Not to mention a few cheesecake filled cupcakes (here and here).  But I have never made a no bake cheesecake and honestly have always been skeptical of the no bake variety.  In my mind, it just NEEDS to be baked.  But this cheesecake proved me wrong…can you say divine?!  First of all, I actually LOVE the fact that this cheesecake didn’t need a water bath and an hour and a half in my oven!  And second, it is just as creamy and delicious as the baked variety.  Sure, there is definitely a different in texture but it’s not a bad thing at all.

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Slice

 

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake Ganache

I chose to make this Oreo variation from Life, Love and Sugar.  The only difference was adding a bit more Oreos, homemade whipped cream and a ganache to top it off.  I took it to a family dinner and it was a huge hit, but cut the slices small because we all agreed it was VERY rich.  Perfect with a hot cup of coffee or tall glass of ice cold milk!

Enjoy!

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 3 c. Oreo crumbs (about 36 Oreos)
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, melted
Homemade Whipped Cream (for filling)
  • 2.5 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ½ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Filling
  • 3, 8 oz. pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ c. Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 c. Whipped Cream (or Cool Whip)
  • 2 c. Oreo crumbs (about 25 Oreos)
Ganache Topping
  • 1 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
Instructions
  1. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
For the Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Let chill in the refrigerator to firm up.
For the Homemade Whipped Cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer (cream will whip better if bowl and whisk are chilled in freezer for 30 minutes), beat the heavy whipping cream until thick and holds shape. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside in the refrigerator to use for the filling.
For the Filling
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Slowly beat in the whipped cream. Gently fold in the Oreo crumbs. Pour into the Oreo crust and let chill in the refrigerator overnight.
For the Ganache
  1. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small pan over medium heat, bring the heavy whipping cream just to a boil and immediately pour over the chocolate chips. Let sit for one minutes and then begin stirring until all the chocolate is melted. Let cool for a few minutes. While ganache is cooling, remove sides of the springform pan from the cheesecake. Pour ganache onto the middle of the cheesecake and down the sides. Let cool completely in fridge until ganache is firm. Serve chilled.

 

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Peanut Butter Gooey Bars

Peanut Butter Gooey Bars

Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite combos and it is absolutely delicious in these super easy Peanut Butter Gooey Bars!  I looooove easy these days, let me tell ya.  Don’t be put off by the use of a boxed cake mix–they really come in handy sometimes!  I added Rice Krispies for a little crispy/chewy texture but feel free to leave them out if you wish.  Perfect treat to whip up on a cold winter night (which apparently we are having lots of around here in the Midwest–UGH).

Peanut Butter Gooey Bar

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Gooey Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1, 18.25 oz. Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c. Rice Krispie Cereal
  • 1½ c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1, 14oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan.
  2. Combine peanut butter, butter, eggs, cake mix and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined. Gently mix in the Rice Krispies. Press half the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pour on the sweetened condensed milk. Top with remaining cake mixture.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack and cut into squares.
Notes
Makes 16 bars.

 

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Norwegian Lent Buns

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I had the extreme pleasure of going to a friends house this past week and witnessing a special dessert being made called fastelavensboller; basically cardamom yeast buns filled with whipping cream.  She is from Norway and these mark the beginning of Lent in her country.  A link to the recipe can be found here.  She made hers basically the same way, although she used regular all-purpose flour for the buns and filled them with a raspberry whipping cream.  They were decadent and so delicious.  Not to mention pretty!  She put hers into heart shaped tins for a special Valentine’s Day twist.  It was such a fun project and I felt so honored to be able to share in it!  I can’t wait to try making them myself!  Below are a few photos that documented the process.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars with Pink Hearts

Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bar with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Doesn’t the title of these things just SOUND delicious?!  As well it should because these bars are good.  Very, very good.  They definitely remind me of one of my favorite recipes of all time, Sugar Cookie Bars, but with a touch of cocoa in the bars (YUM) and decadent white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  They are perfect for Valentine’s Day with the red in the batter and cute, sparkly pink sugar hearts on top.  I used a cookie cutter to make the heart shape and directed the pink sugar with a funnel into the heart.  Easy!  These make great treats for kids and adults alike!

Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars

Enjoy!

Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Ingredients
Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars
  • 3⅓ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ c. Unsweetened Cocoa
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 c. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1½ c. Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 T. (one, 1 oz. bottle) Red Food Coloring
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1, 8 oz. Pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c. White Chocolate Chips, melted
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray.
For the Bars
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Press evenly into the bottom of the 9x13 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool bars completely on a wire rack before frosting.
For the Frosting
  1. In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and the melted white chocolate. With the mixer on low, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Spread evenly over sugar cookie bars.
Notes
Makes 18-20 bars.

Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bar

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Nutella Cheesecake Brownies

Nutella Cheesecake Brownies

Nutella Cheesecake Swirl

Superbowl is this Sunday and of course we’ll be having something sweet!  When it comes to food for parties, I really prefer it to not require utensils and be easy to eat.  The less fuss, the better.  These brownies fit the bill and oh yeah, are super delicious.  If you haven’t tried Nutella by now, these brownies are a great place to start (after eating some straight out of the jar with a spoon of course).  The combo of creamy cheesecake and dense brownie swirled with rich Nutella make these the perfect dessert for the big game day, in my opinion.  Can’t wait until Sunday!  I mean, it’s really about the food after all.

Nutella Cheesecake

Enjoy!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Nutella Cheesecake Brownies
 
Ingredients
Brownies
  • 1 c., 2 T. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c., 2 T. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ¼ t. plus ⅛ t. Salt
  • ¾ c. Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ c. Brown Sugar, packed
  • ¾ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Cheesecake
  • 2, 8 oz. Pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 c. Nutella
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.
For the Brownies
  1. Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread batter into pan.
For the Cheesecake
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Pour over brownie batter. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the cheesecake and gently swirl into the cheesecake batter with a knife.
  2. Bake for 45-50 minutes until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack and then chill in the refrigerator overnight and until ready to serve.
Notes
Makes 18-20 brownies.

Nutella Cheesecake Brownie

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Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Glaze

I have been seriously struggling lately with inspiration for my blog.  And motivation.  I mean, I WANT to bake and blog and there are plenty of recipes out there that I’m dying to try, but it’s just a little daunting trying to find the time with a baby to be in the kitchen for an hour or more.  Not gonna lie, it kinda sucks.  Love my daughter but I miss baking!!!  Just keeping it real, people.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Slices

Anywho, most of my recipes lately have been fairly simple and quick to make and honestly will probably stay that way for awhile.  And I really don’t see anything wrong with that as long as they TASTE good.  That’s the main objective, after all…something you want to eat!  Last week I was racking my brain trying to think of something easy to make and it occurred to me that I had quite a few overripe, frozen bananas in my freezer that I needed to use.  If for nothing else, I just needed that freezer space back!  I went to see how many I had and I counted 20 bananas.  Twenty!!!  That’s a lot.  Unbelievably enough, I couldn’t find a recipe that uses 20 bananas at once (shocking, I know) but I did manage to adapt this Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction and use a whopping four bananas.  Woo hoo, my freezer will be cleaned out in no time!  NOT.  I have a feeling we’ll be eating a lot of banana bread in the future.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Loaf

So like I said I adapted this recipe and threw in a little cocoa powder (I love the combo of chocolate and cinnamon) and added a crunchy cinnamon sugar top to the loaf.  It turned out moist and so delicious.  The only disappointing thing was that you couldn’t see the cinnamon sugar layer in the middle of the loaf because of the cocoa…I didn’t even think about that!  But it still tasted amazing.  Simple, homey and just good.  It’s a favorite banana bread recipe in our house now!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread
 
Ingredients
Banana Bread
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • ¼ c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ¾ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¾ c. Dark Brown Sugar, packed
  • ½ c. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1½ c. Mashed, Very Ripe Bananas (about 4 bananas)
  • ⅓ c. Sour Cream
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon Swirl
  • ½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1½ t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, melted (this will be reserved for the top of the loaf)
Simple Glaze
  • ½ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Heavy Cream (or milk...all I had was almond milk so I used that)
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
For the Banana Bread
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do NOT overmix.
  2. Spoon half of the batter into prepared pan. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the batter in the pan. Top with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour melted butter evenly over loaf. Bake for 50-55 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
  3. While the bread is cooling, make the glaze in a small bowl by combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla. Drizzle over the cooled banana bread. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
8-10 servings.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread Pieces

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Bakery Review – Hurts Donut in Springfield, MO

Hurts Donut Outside

Hurts Donut Sign

Hurts Donut Window

A few weeks ago a new donut (doughnut?  I never really know) shop opened in downtown Springfield, MO and people went NUTS.  I mean, NUTS.  It was lines out the door, front page news, donut PANDEMONIUM.  So of course I had to check it out and see what all the fuss was about.  We ventured downtown late one Saturday morning with stinker butt (that would be our daughter, Avery) and to our surprise there was no line out the door and hardly anyone inside.  Apparently we had just missed the rush.  Yay!  So we got to swagger right up to the counter where we were greeted with a plethora of brightly decorated, candy and cereal crusted donuts.

Hurts Donut Inside

 

Hurts Donut Menu

Hurts Donut Case

The variety was pretty big….from your basic glazed yeast donut to maple bacon long johns and cake donuts dipped in frosting and covered with cereal, candy bars, sprinkles and almost anything else you could imagine.  It reminded me of a place I had seen on Food Network years ago called VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.

Fruity Pebble Donut

Cinnamon Crunch Donut

Captain Crunch Donut

Butterfinger Donut

So how were the donuts?  Pretty tasty.  I wasn’t a fan of the cake donuts with all the crazy toppings (cereal and candy on a donut just isn’t my thing) but the streusel yeast donut and glazed maple long john we had were quite delicious.  I can definitely understand the appeal to so many people with all the variety they have.  You’re bound to find something you like!  At this point, they are open 24 hours a day so check them out if you are in the area.  Hopefully this place will be around for awhile!

Animal Cookie and Coconut Donut

 

Box of Donuts

 

Streusel Donut

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German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

I had grand plans this past Thanksgiving of making pie, which is definitely one of my favorite desserts.  For me, it ranks up there with cheesecake, bread pudding and really good wedding cake.  However as the time drew near, I quickly realized how challenging it would be to make two or three pies with a seven month old demanding my attention.  Yeah, not happenin’.  Soooo, Plan B was these German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.  And I must say, I am NOT sad that I had to make these instead!  Imagine pecan pie, loaded with coconut and bittersweet chocolate chunks, on top of a chocolatey crust, in bar form.  To. Die. For.  I can honestly say I’m glad I had to change things up because these were out of this world delicious!

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars 2

 

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars 3

Enjoy!

Original Recipe:  Southern Living Magazine

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1¾ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ c. Powdered Sugar
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • ¼ c. Unsweetened Cocoa
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, cubed
Filling
  • 1 c. Dark Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 c. Light Corn Syrup
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 3 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3½ c. Pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2 c. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (I like Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet but you could also use semi-sweet, etc)
  • 2 c. Sweetened, Flaked Coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over the sides to use as "handles". Lightly grease foil.
For the Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and cocoa powder. Add butter and crumble it with your fingers or a fork until it resembles a coarse meal. Press into the bottom of the 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
For the Filling
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and eggs. Stir in 1 cup of coconut and pecans and pour over the crust. Top with remaining cup of coconut.
  2. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and set (mine was still the slightest bit jiggly in the very middle and I was ok with that). Cool completely on a wire rack. Lift baked bars from pan using foil "handles" and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
Makes 20 bars.

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars 4

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