Thanksgiving 2012

I have so many things to be thankful for this year.  Family, friends, health, good jobs and so much more than I can even count right now.  Oh and of course all of you!  I am thankful for each and every one of you that come back to my little baking site time and time again.  God has blessed me beyond what I deserve and I am so incredibly thankful.  Praying you all have a blessed Thanksgiving and get to enjoy good food, family and friends!

(Thought I’d share a little photo of some baking I did this week!  Cherry cheesecake, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie and lots of other delicious things that couldn’t fit in the picture. 🙂  Mmmmm, sugar….)

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Hot Cinnamon Cranberry Punch

This morning I want to share a recipe that is one of my absolute favorite holiday recipes.  It’s a hot punch drink that my mom makes every year at Christmas and it is one of the most delicious drinks I’ve ever had.  The flavors of cranberry, cinnamon, citrus and cloves are perfectly balanced and blend together so nicely.  And this recipe couldn’t be easier–simply heat and it’s done!  If you are looking for something warm and absolutely delicious, try this punch.

Enjoy!

Note:  This recipes calls for Cinnamon Imperial Candies.  You can find them at Price Cutter or Hyvee. Brach’s brand is best.

Hot Cinnamon Cranberry Punch
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Qt. 100% Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • 9 oz. (3/4 of 12 oz. can) Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
  • 9 oz. (3/4 of 12 oz. can) Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
  • 3 Qt. Water
  • 20 Whole Clove
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 15 oz. Cinnamon Imperial Candies
Instructions
  1. Heat all ingredients in a VERY large stockpot over medium heat until heated through. Stir frequently.*
Notes
Makes about 25, 8 oz. servings. *The Imperial candies will want to stick to the bottom of the pan while the mixture heats, but just a use a wooden spoon to keep them scraped off and they will eventually melt.

 

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Cinnamon Roll Cake

Cinnamon Roll Cake.  Also known in our house as “crack cake”.  Listen I don’t care what your planning on baking for Thanksgiving this week–pie, cookies, trifle, cobbler, whatever–I don’t care.  Yeah I know you’re in the middle of making your massive grocery list but whatever dessert you have on it, scratch it off.  You will likely already have all the ingredients needed for this cake and this cake is what you want to make.  Trust me on this.

I had never even heard of Cinnamon Roll Cake until my good friend Nicole (who also happens to be a FABULOUS baker) told me she had went to a recipe exchange and someone brought this cake.  When she showed me the recipe, it looked so easy I had to try it right away.  Luckily we had a bonfire we were going to this past Friday so it was the perfect excuse to make it.  I had it done in no time and was taking it out of the oven, piping hot, pouring the glaze all over it and breathing in the delicious aroma of what smelled just like yummy cinnamon rolls.  Now whoever wrote the recipe said they preferred to eat it while it was still warm, so of course we took their advice!  And it was indeed delicious.  Very much like a warm cinnamon roll in cake form.  However, after letting it cool for several hours, something magical happens after all the glaze has soaked into the dense cake and the cinnamon-brown sugar swirl has turned super gooey and decadent.  The cake itself is not overly sweet which is nice because it balances out the sweetness of the swirl and glaze perfectly.  I’m telling you, it was amazing!!!  Jeremy and I agreed that we liked it warm but LOVED it cold/room temperature and both agreed that we can never be left alone with this cake in the house.  It’s so, SO good.  Totally addicting.  Yeah, like crack.  Seriously, make this for your Thanksgiving dinner!  People will rave.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Sugar
  • 4 t. Baking Powder
  • 1½ c. Whole Milk
  • 2 Large Eggs, room temperature
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, melted
Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Swirl
  • 1 c. Unsalted Butter, softened (I just popped mine in the microwave for about 20 seconds)
  • 1 c. Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 T. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 T. Cinnamon
Glaze
  • 2½ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 5 T. Whole Milk or Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2½ T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Instructions
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Slowly beat in the milk, eggs (one at a time) and vanilla. With mixer on low, slowly pour in the melted butter. Mix for a couple of minutes on medium speed until all ingredients are well combined. Pour into pan.
For the Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Swirl
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop by spoonfuls over cake and then swirl gently with a knife. Bake for 32-35 minutes (mine took 35), until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. While the cake is still warm, slice into pieces and drizzle the glaze (instructions below) all over the cake. Eat warm or at room temperature (which is what we prefer!).
For the Glaze
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
Notes
Serves 18.

 

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Homemade Twinkies

It’s a sad day friends.  Hostess has announced they will be closing their doors for good!  We weren’t really allowed to have many Hostess products growing up but every now and then a friend at school would share their Twinkies with me (don’t tell my mom) and I relished every single bite.  It’s sad to see such an iconic baking brand go away but thankfully there are a plethora of foodie bloggers and cooking websites out there that have tried to duplicate their sweets over the years.  For instance, this recipe from Joy the Baker for Homemade Twinkies. When it comes to baking, Joy knows what she’s doing so I’m confident this recipe in a winner!  The next time the Twinkie craving strikes, give this recipe a try!

P.S. For that classic Twinkie shape, you can buy a Twinkie pan like this one or make you own Twinkie tins as illustrated here.  Or you can do what I plan on doing–make them in a cupcake pan!  Same great taste, just a different shape!

Homemade Twinkies
 
Ingredients
Twinkie Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1 cup milk
Twinkie Cream
  • 2 teaspoons very hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups marshmallow cream (one 7-ounce jar)
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
For the Twinkie Cake
  1. Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with the milk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until just incorporated.
  4. Spray prepared Twinkie tins with nonstick spray and divide the batter between the cups. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are just slightly golden and a pick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling with marshmallow cream.
For the Twinkie Cream
  1. Combine the salt and the how water in a small bowl and mix until the salt is dissolved. Let the mixture cool.
  2. Combine the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  3. Add the salt solution to the filling and beat to combine.
  4. Scoop into a pastry bag with a small tip and pipe into cooled Twinkie cakes. Flip them over so the browned bottoms of the cakes are on top, and the filling side is on the bottom. Wrap cakes in plastic wrap and give them to all your friends!
Notes
Makes 12 Twinkies.

 

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Cappuccino Truffles

Last week I had the privilege of giving a brief presentation to our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in Springfield, MO.  I shared two recipes with them, one healthy and one definitely not healthy.  I was a little nervous because I have never tried doing a cooking demonstration AND talking at the same time, but everyone was very nice and made me feel very comfortable!

The first recipe I shared was this one for my No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites (chocolate version).  I actually made this one in front of the group with a little help from two lovely assistants.  They were passed around so everyone could try them and the general consensus was “yum!”.  Everyone seemed to love the fact that these were healthy, easy to make and tasted delicious (I describe them as tasting just like a no-bake cookie!).  I was sooo relieved that everyone liked them!

The second goodie I shared were my Cappuccino Truffles.  There are a few candy recipes that I have made many times in the past and NEVER shared and this was one o them.  When I find recipes that people rave over and are willing to pay me to make, it’s hard for me to let go of them, but it was time!  I had these done ahead of time and did a few with coffee bean decor and some with gold luster dust.  It was so fun to pass these out and watch while people tasted them…the look of sheer pleasure on their faces was priceless.  Yep, they’re good.

I make mine with bittersweet chocolate ganache that has a hint of cinnamon and coffee and has been enrobed in a yummy white chocolate.  They are absolutely divine.  If you are looking at candy recipes for this holiday season and just don’t know which one to choose (there are MANY out there) I would highly encourage you to make this one!  They will be gone in seconds wherever you take them.

Needless to say, I had a fantastic time with the MOPS group of girls.  They were so fun and had lots of questions which I actually really enjoyed answering!  I’m definitely thinking I might be ready for my own cooking show….

Enjoy!

Cappuccino Truffles
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. Bittersweet or Dark Chocolate, finely chopped (I prefer Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Bars)
  • 1½ c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 T. Instant Coffee Granules (or espresso powder)
  • ½ t. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1.25 lbs White Chocolate Candy Coating
  • 60 Coffee Beans, for decoration
Instructions
  1. Place the bittersweet/dark chocolate in a large bowl. Place the instant coffee in a small bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy whipping cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir 3 tablespoons into the instant coffee, to dissolve the granules, then blend this mixture back into the rest of the cream. Stir in the cinnamon, then pour the cream into the bowl with the bittersweet chocolate. Let the mixture stand for one minute, then stir together until thoroughly blended and smooth. Let cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until thick but not stiff, about 2 hours.
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with foil. With a melon baler, scoop out about 1” balls onto the foil-lined pan. Place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove from freezer and roll into balls with the palm of your hands. Place back in the refrigerator while you melt the white chocolate.*
  3. Melt the white chocolate candy coating in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each until completely melted and smooth. Dip each truffle in the white chocolate and place on foil. Top immediately with a coffee bean.
Notes
Makes 60, 1" truffles. *Be sure your truffles are not frozen or too cold. If they are very cold, it will cause the white chocolate to crack after you dip them.

 

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Fire Truck Birthday Party

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a dessert table for a little boy’s firetruck/firehouse birthday party.  Of course I said yes!  It sounded like so much fun.  But then I realized…what kind of desserts do I do for a firetruck theme?!  I have done plenty of dessert tables for weddings, baby showers and bridal showers but a boy’s firetruck birthday party?  Ummm, no.

I immediately turned to Google for ideas and was able to come up with some fun stuff!  I honestly am not a big decorator/detail person when it comes to desserts.  I like to make stuff that tastes amazing and just looks good.  Fondant and decorated sugar cookies have never been my thing.  So it was challenging to find desserts that I could do that didn’t require crazy decorating skills.  But I came up with a great spread! If I do say so myself.

We had Twizzlers to represent a firehose, fire hydrant sugar cookies, “flaming” yellow and red swirled marshmallows, red and yellow Jelly Belly’s and of course, cupcakes!  I was SO happy with how everything turned out and so was the client (which of course is the MOST important thing).  It was a fun challenge and more importantly everything was delicious!

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Spiced Pear Butter

I am officially obsessed, OBSESSED, with this recipe for pear (or apple!) butter.  It was insanely easy and produced the most delicious pear butter I have ever had.  Fortunately, my grandparents have a pear tree in their backyard and were generous enough to share their bounty with me!  The only downside is that now that I know how awesome this stuff is, I can’t get my hand on any more free pears!  They seem to have gotten to their peak and are no more.  I am so, so sad about this.  I’m still thinking about just hitting up a local apple orchard because I’d REALLY love to make apple butter from this recipe.  We shall see.

Thus far, I’ve been spreading this yumminess on my bagels in the morning.  Or eating with a spoon from the jar.  I’m not proud of that but I can’t help myself.  You could put it on waffles, pancakes, crepes…so many possibilities.  The spices in it are perfection and the texture is so buttery smooth.  I love that I was able to throw everything in the crockpot overnight and it was practically done!  It does take a little time to peel and core all the pears (about 45 minutes) but it is so worth it.  I also used Sucanat which is a great alternative to processed, refined sugar…much better for your body.  Also used pink himalayan sea salt instead of overly processed table salt that’s been stripped of all nutrients.  I wondered how it would work with the alternative sugar and honestly, I couldn’t tell a difference in texture and taste-wise, I thought it was better!

Take advantage of the pears and apples at the height of the season and make this stuff!  So, so good!

Spiced Pear Butter
 
Ingredients
  • 6 lbs (about 25 large) Pears or Apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 2½ c. Sucanat (or use brown sugar)
  • 4 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ t. Ground Cloves
  • ½ t. Allspice
  • ½ t. Fine Sea Salt (I used pink himalayan)
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on high for one hour.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
  4. Uncover and continue cooking on low for one hour. Place mixture in blender and blend until completely smooth.  Let cool completely.
  5. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers and refrigerate or freeze.
Notes
Makes 2 pints.

 

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Butterfinger Fudge

Fudge.  Who doesn’t love fudge??  My mom makes THE BEST chocolate and peanut butter fudge that I have ever had.  I seriously have tried a LOT (more than I care to admit) both from friends, co-workers and fudge shops and I can honestly say I have found NOTHING that beats hers.  She only makes it at Christmas and I am soooo ready to dig into some.

In the meantime I tried my hand at this recipe for Butterfinger Fudge.  It uses lots of candy corn which is perfect since pretty soon it will all be on clearance! I was a little skeptical only because this recipe seemed so easy…no timing or waiting for a certain temperature, just mixing stuff together.  And I thought my recipe for Maple-Walnut Fudge was easy, and it is, but this stuff was so easy my dog could make it.  If I had a dog.  Ok, let’s just say your husband could do it–YES, that easy.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results!  The taste is definitely yummy and I’ll be honest, once you mix the candy corn, peanut butter and sweetened condesnsed milk together it does in fact taste just like a Butterfinger candy bar.  But adding the white chocolate chips dilutes the flavor a bit and it ends up (in my opinion) tasting more like peanut butter fudge.  It’s still super yummy and delish, I just wish there was more of a way to retain that Butterfinger flavor…maybe using peanut butter chips instead of white??  Try it and let me know what you think!

Butterfinger Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 3 c. Candy Corn
  • 1 c. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 1, 14 oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 c. White Chocolate chips
  • Dark Chocolate for Dipping (I like the Wilton Dark Chocolate Discs or the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Candy Coating)
Instructions
  1. Line a 9x9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the candy corn and peanut butter. Stir occasionally. The peanut butter will start to melt and the candy corn will break down. When it gets to the point it looks like cookie dough texture, add in the sweetened condensed milk. Stir vigorously until everything is blended and the candy corn has melted into the mixture completely. It will get thick! Add the white chocolate chips and stir until the are fully melted and blended in with the mixture. Pour into the 9x9 pan and let cool completely. Cut into 1" squares and drizzle or dip in dark chocolate.
Notes
Makes about 50, 1" squares.

 

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Cupcake Themed Halloween

Obsessed with cupcakes?  Who isn’t?!  They are cute.  So cute, that they are put on pretty much anything.  Seriously…you could put a picture of a cupcake on a cow patty and it would be cute.  While no one will be capitalizing on cupcake cow patties anytime soon, they sure are coming up with lots of other products to keep the sweet trend going.  Check out these fun items…

Cupcake Halloween Costume from Pottery Barn

Chiasso Cupcake Doormat

Johnny Cupcakes Hello Kitty Tote Bag

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Best Butterscotch Cookies Ever

I have finally made a cookie recipe that I LOVE and it is as close to a perfect cookie as I will probably ever get.  I always struggle with cookies.  Not all cookies, just the most basic cookie ever--chocolate chip!  For some reason I have never found the perfect recipe for a chewy, thick chocolate chip cookie, like one you'd find in a bakery.  And I've tried many.  MANY.  That's not to say I don't have some absolutely fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipes, I just haven't found one in my mind that is the best. Anywho, this isn't quite a typical chocolate chip cookie but let me tell you I might just give up my search after making this one.  It is literally the thickest, chewiest, most delicious cookies I have ever made and maybe ever had...EVER!  Yeah, I'm pretty excited about it.  I took a really basic recipe for oatmeal butterscotch cookies and made some changes to it that I hoped would make it beyond awesome.  And much to my delight, it did.  Seriously, this cookie is out of this world.  Let me know if you agree! Enjoy!
Best Butterscotch Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Unsalted Butter
  • ½ c. White Sugar
  • 1 c. Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs, 1 Large Egg Yolk
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 c. Rolled Oats
  • 2 c. (11 oz. pkg.) Butterscotch Chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large pan over medium heat, brown the butter. This will take about 8 minutes for the butter to melt and turn golden brown. Remove from heat and combine the sugars and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and oats. Add to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in butterscotch chips.
  4. Roll mixture into 2" balls and place on baking sheets two inches apart. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Notes
Makes about 30 cookies.

 

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Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe started off as blondies but somehow turned into cake.  Not sure what I did wrong but it’s all good because this turned out to be one of the best pumpkin cakes I’ve ever made.  It’s super moist and the spices are very pronounced which I love.  On top of all that, the orange cream cheese frosting is THE PERFECT frosting to complement all the spices in the cake…it’s absolutely delicious.  I added semi-sweet chocolate chips and dried cherries but if I did it again, I’d omit the chocolate chips.  The just seemed unnecessary and didn’t really add anything.  I did love the dried cherries but you could also leave those out if you prefer.

If you’re looking for a fantastic pumpkin cake recipe, try this one.  You won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Ingredients
Spiced Pumpkin Cake
  • 2 sticks, plus 2 T. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1¾ c. Packed Brown Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1½ c. Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 1½ T. Cinnnamon
  • ½ t. Nutmeg
  • 2 t. Allspice
  • 2 t. Ginger
  • 1 t. Ground Cloves
  • 2¼ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ¾ c. Dried Cherries (optional)
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1, 8 oz. Pkg Cream Cheese, softened
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Orange Zest
  • 4 T. Fresh Orange Juice
Instructions
For the Spiced Pumpkin Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla and pumpkin until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in dried cherries, if using.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely and frost with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.
For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, cream cheese and shortening until smooth. Add salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in orange zest and juice. Frost cake.
Notes
Serves 18

 

 

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Pumpkin and More Pumpkin

I really enjoy finding recipes from other blogs to share with you guys.  The only problem is I find so many that it’s hard to choose which ones to include without the post being incredibly long!  So I managed to narrow things down to TEN pumpkin recipes.  All look drool-worthy and absolutely freakin’ delicious.  See if there is one you like and make it!  If you do, please tell me about it in the comments…I truly would love to know what you end up making and loving!

Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treats

Pumpkin Butter

Mini Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecakes

Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Pretzels

Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Mini Pumpkin Doughnuts with Rum-Cider Glaze

Pumpkin Candy Cups

Pumpkin Scones

P.S.  I guess I shouldn’t be worried about linking too many recipes–check out this blog!  LOTS of pumpkin going on on this page!  Wow!

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Love is Sweet

My last and final post about our trip to Illinois in August!  I’ve covered chocolate, pie and cupcakes and now the grand finale—the wedding!!!  Jeremy and Lisa worked together at the church we went to in Rockford and when we left a mere 2.5 years ago she wasn’t even dating anyone but before we knew it she was engaged to Adam and it was wedding time!  Lisa is a very detailed oriented person so I expected alot out of this wedding and I can honestly say I was not disappointed!  It was totally a gorgeous, picture perfect wedding.  Seriously.

The ceremony was at 1, with a dessert reception immediately following outside on the front lawn of the church.  There was a white tent with the most amazing spread of mini cupcakes, cheesecakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, hand pies, mini brownies and chocolate dipped pretzels.  I LOVE mini anything, especially desserts, so it was a feast for the eyes!  And her colors were some of my favorites…pink, grey, black and white.  Loved it.

A few hours later there was a dinner reception at the Rockford Art Museum.  The venue was awesome but even more awesome was this candy buffet!  It had gummies, Jordan almonds, Circus Peanuts, lollipops, gumballs, jelly beans and taffy.  So fun!

Lastly, the wedding cake!  Isn’t it so sweet??  To my surprise this was a strawberry shortcake cake!  The frosting on the outside looked like buttercream but was actually a whipped cream frosting and the inside was layers of yellow cake with strawberries and more whipped cream in between!  Loved it.  Definitely different and memorable!

We were so happy we were able to share in Lisa and Adam’s special day and wish them all the best!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Welp, it’s October.  Pumpkin is everywhere.  Pumpkin decor, pumpkin patches, pumpkin candy, pumpkin soup…it goes on and on.  And then we have baking.  The pumpkin recipes never end.  You’ve got bars, cakes, ice cream, cookies, fudge, cheesecake, cupcakes and so many other things I’m not even able to think of right now!  I of course want an EPIC pumpkin recipe to share with you all but it seems like so many ideas have already been done…but I’m working on it!

In the meantime, I’d like to share this super simple and healthy pumpkin muffin recipe.  It’s like pumpkin pie in muffin form with a little chocolate thrown in.  I LOVE the combo of pumpkin and chocolate.  I first tried it a few years ago when I made pumpkin truffles and wow, the two flavors together are amazing!  This recipe from Deliciously Organic was originally grain-free but I only had whole wheat pastry flour on hand so I went with that.  I modified a few other things and these turned out fabulous.  Super moist and full of pumpkin flavor.  And the little touch of chocolate is delicious.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • ⅓ c. Almond Milk
  • ½ c. Sucanat
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ⅓ c. Safflower Oil
  • 1 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ¾ t. Salt (I prefer Pink Himalayan)
  • 1 t. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1½ t. Cinnamon
  • 1 c. Canned, Pure Pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • ½ c. Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
  2. Whisk eggs, egg whites, almond milk, sucanat, vanilla and safflower oil together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon together. Add dry ingredients to wet and whisk until no lumps remain. Fold in pumpkin. Spoon batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 12 muffins.

 

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Apple Snickers Trifle

Apples are SO good right now.  Am I right or am I right?  I can’t get enough.  And this past weekend I wanted to make a special dessert for a family get-together and of course, wanted to include apples.  But I didn’t necessarily want to bake something.  Enter the Apple Snickers Trifle.  You might have seen a version of this recipe on Pinterest called an Apple & Snickers Salad, made with a pudding/Cool Whip mixture.  But first, the name had to go.  Salad?  It just felt wrong.  I mean salads have vegetables and croutons and definitely don’t involve Snickers in any way.  Apples maybe but Snickers…no.

Second, I put it in a trifle dish and layered the ingredients instead of just throwing it in a bowl.  I think it definitely looks prettier, don’t you?  Much better for presentation!

I will warn you: this stuff is good.  It seemed a little odd to me at first to mix apples with Snickers but it totally makes sense: it’s like a caramel apple with some chocolate thrown in.  Yum!  It is VERY rich and decadent and a nice change of pace from apple cake or apple cookies (not that those are bad…they rock as well).

Enjoy!

Apple Snickers Trifle
 
Ingredients
  • 2, 8 oz. Pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1, 16 oz. Container Cool Whip
  • 6 c. Chopped, Granny Smith Apples (about 6-7 apples, plus a few for garnish)
  • 10 Regular-Size Snickers, chopped (I froze mine unwrapped in a large plastic Ziploc bag and took the flat side of a meat mallot to them...worked like a charm)
  • Caramel Sauce
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. On low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar and then the vanilla. Fold in the Cool Whip.
  2. Stir in the chopped apples, reserving a few for garnish. Stir in 1½ c. of the crushed Snickers. Spoon ⅓ of the mixture into a trifle dish. Sprinkle half of the remaining Snickers onto the mixture. You can also drizzle with caramel sauce, which is what I did, but I thought it was a little too sweet and not necessary and wouldn't do it again. Spoon another ⅓ of the mixture into the trifle dish and the remaining half of the Snickers (save a ½ c. or so for garnish). Spoon the remaining mixture into the trifle dish and garnish with chopped apples, Snickers and caramel sauce. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve (it will probably get a bit runny the next day so I highly recommend making and serving it the same day).
Notes
Serves 25.

 

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Sugarjones in Rockford, IL

Alright, third sweet stop on our whirlwind trip to Illinois is Sugarjones in Rockford!  Now if you’ll recall we already got our chocolate and pie fix so naturally it was time for some CUPCAKES.  Honestly I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it to this place or not since we had to be at a wedding fairly early that day but lucky for us Sugarjones opened at 10 a.m. so after we got in our free out-of-towner workout on at the local YMCA, we headed over to Sugarjones to get ummmm…breakfast (I mean really, how many degrees of separation are there between a muffin and a cupcake?!  Yeah, not many.)

So we got there and the place was hoppin’!  They obviously had a ton of special orders that day…boxes were flying out the door!  The place was really cute and I loved how the kitchen was open and you could see everyone working away.  The owner herself was there and I actually got to meet her and tell her that I had a blog and would be doing a review on her place.  Fun!

The cupcakes themselves looked beautiful.  So simple and elegant.  I was sooo excited to try them.  We bought three different kinds:  Churro, Black & White and a Chocolate cupcake.  So how did they taste?   To sum it up in one word:  PHENOMENAL.  I am not joking when I say these are possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever had  (aside from Red’s Cupcakes, of course!).  The cake was perfect, moist and tender and just divine.

The frosting was another thing altogether…I LOVED It.  The moment I tasted it, I was in heaven!  It was silky smooth and not at all sugary or greasy.  It reminded me of a Swiss or Italian buttercream but not quite the same.  I couldn’t put my finger on it so of course I had to ask the owner what it was!  Sure enough she said it was her version of a Swiss buttercream but without the egg whites.  So, her own recipe.  I TOTALLY wanted to ask her for it, but refrained.  But I still might.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did rank the cupcakes.  Honestly, it was almost a three-way tie because they were all soooo good that it was hard to choose but for me, my favorite was the Churro.  It had swirls of cinnamon and sugar in the cake and a dreamy vanilla frosting…it was beyond scrumptious.   The Black & White was my second favorite and then Chocolate was third.  But like I said, ALL were excellent.  I’m only sad that they are 8 hours away.

If you are in the area, I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking this place out.  Or if you have already, I’d love to hear your feedback!

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Caramel Apple Sandwich Cookies

I love fall.  Hands down, my favorite season.  Leaves turning colors, cooler temps and oh yeah, APPLES.  Gorgeous apples from local orchards around town have been showing up at our farmer’s market lately.  I absolutely love, love, love apple recipes. As kids, my sister and I knew that fall meant apple picking (can I just say there is nothing like a golden delicious apple right off the tree) and then of course BAKING with those apples.  My mom would always make her German Apple Cake (which is still one of my favorite desserts) and an apple crisp!  There was nothing like warm apple crisp right out of the oven with a big scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Yum.

So I wanted to do something just a little different and thought these Caramel Apple Sandwich Cookies totally fit the bill.  I will say that these cookies are divine by themselves but sandwich them with caramel cream cheese frosting and wow, takes it to a whole other level!  You could also sub the apples with raisins, craisins, white chocolate chips, nuts…this is just a very solid oatmeal cookie!  Promise, you’ll love it!

Enjoy!

Original recipe by Taste of Home.

Caramel Apple Sandwich Cookies
 
Ingredients
Chewy Apple Oatmeal Cookies
  • 1 c. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 c. Packed Brown Sugar
  • ½ c. White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ⅛ t. Ground Cloves
  • ⅛ t. Nutmeg
  • ⅛ t. Allspice
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 3 c. Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1 c. Chopped, Dried Apples
  • 1 c. Chopped Granny Smith Apple (one large apple should be enough)
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ¼ Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • ⅛ t. Salt
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1¾ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 3 T. Caramel Sauce (I used Smuckers brand)
Instructions
For the Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, salt and oats. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped apples.
  3. Drop by rounded spoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Let cool for two minutes before moving to wire racks and let cool completely.
For the Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and then the caramel sauce.
To Assemble the Cookies
  1. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the frosting on the flat side of a cookie and place another cookie on top.
Notes
Makes 16 cookie sandwiches or 32 cookies.

 

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Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Ok, I’ve already covered stop #1 at The Chocolatier, Inc. on our Illinois getaway trip.  Now we come to our next sweet destination…Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Chicago.  I was SO excited about this bakery because it was the first pie place I have ever had the opportunity to go to–yay!  Usually it’s chocolate or cupcakes, but not this time!

Since my recent obsession with pies developed, I knew that when planning this trip, I HAD to find a pie place in Chicago for us to go to.  And believe it or not there were several that seemed good but this one really stood out and had awesome reviews.

First, I have to say that this place literally is a hole in the wall.  We drove by it the first time and I swore up and down that I didn’t see it…I mean, I was looking.  So, we did another circle, this time going as slow as possible with traffic all around and sure enough, there it was!  Luckily, there was a spot open almost right in front of it.

So we got in and immediately found ourselves in the teeny, tiniest space…like hard to move and not bump into people.  There were a total of three tables and one just happened to be opening up so we grabbed it.  And it was chaos from that moment on.  People did not stop coming in the door and it was a little overwhelming trying to choose the pies I wanted with a line forming.  But I managed to narrow it down to five (at $4 a slice it was not cheap!).  Here’s a little pic of the ones we got.  And yes, people DID look at our table like we were crazy.

Least favorite, I won’t lie, was the Chocolate Chess Pie.  I had been dying to try a chess pie because it was such an old-fashioned thing and I’d never had one.  But it was just..odd.  Kind of cake/brownie-like and you could definitely tell there was vinegar in it so I wasn’t really a fan.  Kind of non-descript to me.

Next least favorite was the Coconut Cream Pie.  I just tasted like vanilla bean to me (and I’m not a huge fan of vanilla bean–tragic, I know) with coconut mixed in.  So nothing special in my book.

However, things got a LOT better with the fruit pies.  The Apple Pie was scrumptious.  It was like apple cider in pie form.  We liked it alot.

Next the Peach & Cherry Pie was also delicious.  It had a pecan streusel topping that was sooooo good.  I loved it.

Finally, the Chocolate Cream Pie.  It was divine.  You could tell it was made with high-quality chocolate and was silky smooth.  Jeremy and I both thought it was the best of all of them.

We loved this little pie place and highly recommend it if you are ever in the Chicago area!

 

 

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