Happy Friday! In case you’ve been thinking about what you’re going to give to that hard-to-buy for friend or family member for Christmas, why not give them food?? Everyone loves food. Seriously, everyone. What I like about these food gifts is that they are not your typical fudge or baked good that will probably get a little stale before you can recover from all the holiday eating. These can be stored away for a cold winter night (or day) and made or used whenever the urge strikes.
Things are busy this time of year. You need something to be easy. Like 5-minutes, DONE easy. What about some desserts that require ZERO baking time and hardly any effort? Maybe you need something for an office party or family get-together or ANOTHER ugly Christmas sweater party? I’ve got a few recipes that are perfect and done in no time, all in one pan. They will definitely impress! And you will be alot less stressed.
Believe it or not, I had never made gingerbread until a couple of days ago. I’m not sure why, maybe because it is not the typical eggnog/peppermint/chocolate holiday dessert that I usually go for but it has so many things in it I love! To start, it is full of molasses and I absolutely adore molasses. When I was a kid, I loved eating a bowl of peanut butter with either honey, molasses or sorghum all mixed in. Yes, I’d just eat it with a spoon. Healthy, right? Needless to say, I was a chubby kid.
Anyway, I finally made it and I am so glad I did! This gingerbread is absolutely delicious and the smell while it is baking–divine! I looked for some eggnog ice cream to go with ours but for some reason Wal-mart had zero holiday ice cream flavors the day I went so I had to settle for rum raisin. Which ended up being a yummy choice, especially when topped off with homemade salted caramel sauce…which is exactly what we did. Mmmmmmm! Highly recommend!
I am more excited about this Christmas season than ever before! And it’s mostly because I will be baking my way through the next 25 plus days and documenting every gloriously sweet moment on this blog! Since there are so many awesome recipes I want to try right now, I’ll be posting a new one every Monday and Wednesday of the week from now until Christmas. Most likely one will be something baked (cookie, cake, etc) and one will be unbaked (candy, party mix, etc).
I’ve decided to kick off all the festive baking with this amazing Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cappuccino Ganache. This thing is decadent and rich and worth every single calorie you will have to burn on the treadmill the next day. You really can’t go wrong bringing chocolate to a holiday gathering because seriously, who doesn’t love it??
The only problem (well, ok there were two) I encountered with this cheesecake is that the butter in the cookie crust started seeping out of my springform pan for some reason (I have NEVER had that happen before–weird!) so I had to put a cookie sheet beneath it to catch it all. And problem number two was that I didn’t realize how much volume adding two cups of melted chocolate chips would add to this recipe so my 9-inch springform pan got very full…TOO full! I’d advise you to use at least a 10-inch round springform pan. And don’t freak if the top gets kind of funky and cracked; your just going to cover it with ganache anyway. I torted mine to give it a nice even surface before spreading the ganache over it and in the end it turned out perfect!
What are you most looking forward to baking this Christmas season?? I’d love to know!
2½ c. Oreos, crushed (I did mine in a food processor)
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, melted
4, 8 oz. Packages Cream Cheese, softened
1½ c. Granulated Sugar
¾ c. Whole Milk
1 c. Sour Cream
2 T. Pure Vanilla
¼ c. All-Purpose Flour
1 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 c. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
¼ c. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
9 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
2 T. Instant Coffee (or 1 T. Espresso Powder)
¼ t. Cinnamon
For the Cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 10-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the crushed Oreos and melted butter and press evenly into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the crust up onto the sides of the pan just a little.
In a small bowl, melt the semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips in the microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool slightly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the milk and then mix in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream, vanilla, flour and cocoa until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and spread evenly into the springform pan.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool in the oven with the door closed for at least 1 hour (I left mine in for 3 but if I'm pressed for time, I take it out at about 1 hour...it's supposed to help prevent cracking, if you care about that). Let cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator overnight.
For the Ganache
Place the chopped chocolate and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy whipping cream over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. In a separate bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of the boiling heavy whipping cream and then add back to the rest of the heavy whipping cream in the saucepan. Pour the heavy whipping cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly to barely warm and almost room temperature. Pour over cheesecake by starting at the center of the cake and with a spoon, slowly smooth it out toward the edges and slightly over. Let cool completely and store in the refrigerator. Decorate with shaved white chocolate, if desired.
Mmmm, pralines. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the correct pronunciation of these yummy drops of sugar and nuts…praw-lines, pray-lines…how do you say it?? I suppose it depends on where you’re from but I’m sure we can all agree these things are delicious! I will admit I had never even made them before until my baking buddy Betsy suggested we get together and try a couple different kinds. She has the best ideas.
I’m not sure how many or exactly what kinds we did that night, but I know we used one recipe that was her grandmother’s and these are the real deal. Honestly, they are hard to describe other than just yummy pecans and sugar…they almost have a maple taste to them. Which I love. They do use a candy thermometer but don’t be afraid! The candy thermometer is your friend! All you have to do is watch that little red line get to 236 degrees and bam! You’re golden and on your way to praline heaven.
In a medium saucepan, bring butter, corn syrup, evaporated milk and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring occasionally so the mixture doesn't scorch, until a candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees (it will take 8-10 minutes). Once it reaches 236 degrees, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans. Continue to stir until very thick and dark in color, about 4-5 minutes (it will become somewhat difficult to stir...my arm was tired!) and immediately and quickly begin spooning onto wax paper or foil. Let sit until cool and completely firm.
In case you’re feeling crafty and in the mood for cupcakes this Thanksgiving, why not give one of these so, so cute Thanksgiving themed cupcakes a try! I think the acorn cupcakes look like something even I could handle! I’d probably add some chocolate leaves just to give it a little more oomph!
Last week I posted some healthy dessert recipes and I had my eye on a couple to try myself. I decided to start with the Sunny Oat-Date Bars. I just happened to have a HUGE bag of dates sitting on my counter that I had been meaning to make into a dessert but had never taken the time to find a recipe. These bars were the perfect thing to use them in!
I made some minor adjustments to the recipe and overall the results were delicious. They turned out a teensy bit crumbly so I’d recommend eating them with a fork. And after I simmered the dates and orange juice, I had no liquid left over to add to the dry ingredients, it just turned into a very thick mixture. So even though I didn’t have any of the orange/date liquid to add to the oats, it still worked fine. I absolutely LOVED this recipe and found I could hardly stay out of the bars. The flavors of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and dates was ah-mazing. Pretty sure a healthy recipe becomes not so healthy when you eat 2-3 times more than you should! Oh well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, combine the dates, orange juice and orange rind. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occassionally, until dates are very soft and the mixture has turned very thick (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, mash until smooth.
In a large bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla. Add oil mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Press ⅔ of the oat mixture into the pan and spread the date mixture over the crust. Stir pecans into remaining oat mixture and drop by spoonfulls onto the date mixture and spread evenly.
Last year Drury partnered with some local businesses to bring the first every Sugar Rush event to Springfield, MO. It’s basically a sampling a sweets made by local vendors and restaurants with all the profits going to Care to Learn, an organization dedicated to meeting the basic social and economic needs of kids in schools across the Ozarks.
I didn’t know about the event last year in time to go and I almost missed it this year but found out about it at the last minute and managed to score two for one tickets! I asked my friend Robyn (of Red’s Cupcakes!) to go with me and together we ate our way through 25+ vendors and three plates of desserts. Yes, THREE plates. There were a LOT of mini cupcakes, some cookies, chocolates and truffles and even doughnuts and frozen yogurt samples. I can’t say I was terribly impressed with anything but I definitely had my favorites. I think Robyn and I agreed the front runners were Amycakes (awesome from scratch cupcakes and cookies), Elle’s Patisserie (loved her truffles and pastry), My Mary’s Jellies (truffles filled with wine-infused jelly–omg, so going to be making my own!) and one that I really liked, Granolove (super delicious homemade granola). These places stood out above all the rest for quality and taste.
It was so much fun and I absolutely cannot wait for next year! Here are some pictures from the evening-enjoy!
Believe it or not, there are some people on diets this time of year. Yes, DIETS, preparing/starving themselves for the two month long eat-o-rama that begins around mid-November and doesn’t stop until somewhere around the new year. I myself believe in moderation and balance and try to get plenty of exercise and eat an overall healthy diet (I definitely do NOT believe in starvation and “diet” trends). And I am most certainly planning on indulging during the holidays but in moderation.
So, for those more health-conscious readers out there like myself, I thought I would provide you with some healthy dessert options for you to bring to those family get-togethers. Some are most definitely more healthy than others; there are low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar, etc. Options! That’s what I’m all about. 🙂 I’ll definitely be testing a couple (the Date Bars and Honey-Almond Cake are calling my name!) to see if they are worthy of the upcoming family festivities. I’ll post my results!
If you’ve never tried the combination of pumpkin and chocolate, you are seriously missing out. The first time I ever tried the unusual, but oh-so-delicious pairing was several years ago when I made these Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles. I was in heaven. You wouldn’t think that the two flavors would go together but they compliment each other wonderfully. Throw in some cinnamon and it’s a party in your mouth! Now, add a cheesecake factor and you have mind blowing AWESOMENESS. And that is just what you get with these Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Brownies.
These are simple and delicious. The brownie batter is super thick and doesn’t seem like alot when you pour it in the pan, but after it bakes up, it’s the perfect proportion of brownie to cheesecake. The only problem I had was swirling the brownie batter into the cheesecake because it was so thick. It was more just kind of gently mixing it all together with a knife. But it worked! And they turned out perfect.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
For the Brownie Batter:
Beat together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl and then gradually fold into the butter mixture by hand.
For the Pumpkin Cheesecake Batter:
In another bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in remainder of ingredients until smooth.
Spread about ⅔ of the brownie batter into prepared pan. Spread the pumpkin cheesecake batter over top, distributing evenly. Drop the remaining brownie batter over the cheesecake batter and swirl together with a butter knife.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely and chill before cutting and serving. (They are MUCH better chilled in the refrigerator overnight.)
I know everyone is getting really excited about the colder temps and winter-like weather that is happening right now, but we have PLENTY of fall left and I’m going to savor every last minute of it. Here are a few things I love at this time of the year (and some ah-mazing pumpkin recipes).
Fall Leaves. Can’t get enough of the beautiful colors. And it’s even better this year since this is the first fall in our new house and we have two gorgeous trees in our front yard. (and no, these are not our trees! I wish!)
Pumpkin Monkey Bread. I do believe I could eat this EVERY SINGLE morning for breakfast. I won’t! But I could.
Fall-Scented Candles. According to this blog, Bath and Body Works has a Bakeshop candle collection. Sad to say I haven’t been to the mall in so long, I have no idea if this is true or not! Shopping trip!
Andy’s Frozen Custard Pumpkin Pie Concrete. I think this is my favorite concrete concoction from Andy’s (besides my husband’s brilliant combination of cherry juice, Oreos and brownie mmmmm). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good photo which I suppose means one thing: I’ll have to go get a Pumpkin Pie Concrete and take my own photo. The things I do…
Lovely Fall Dessert Tables. I so wish I had been invited to this party.
Just one week ago I was digging my toes into soft, white sand, reading non-stop on my Kindle under a palm tree and eating waaaaayyyyyy too much food. It was a good five days in Cancun.
Here are some photos of the most important part of our trip…dessert! (Forgive the photo quality..taken with a phone…bad lighting..etc etc etc)
These are some of the gorgeous dessert buffets. I honestly can’t tell you what 1/4 of the stuff is and there wasn’t much that I liked, believe it or not. Oh, but I tried it ALL. Most of the choices were either way too sugary sweet coconut candy type things or bland. And the “cake”-like options were very dry. I did find a chocolate cheesecake wrapped in a chocolate purse-type shell (in first pic below, bottom right) that was good and another plain vanilla cheesecake thing (at least I THINK that’s what it was..hard to tell because the top half was green and it was shaped like an oval) that I liked also. I did find these little chocolate cube-like things that I LOVED and I actually found them in the shop at the resort. Turns out they were made of toasted amaranth and chocolate. Yep, totally going to try making them.
There were two little gems that I found on our shopping day. One is an amazing chocolate shop called Ah Cacao. They sold all kinds of chocolate, coffee, every form of vanilla, cookies and some of THE BEST brownies I have ever had. Oh and their chocolate covered espresso beans…AH-MAZING. They were dipped in dark chocolate and then had a crunchy outer shell, like an M&M. I wish I had bought more than one package.
This was a lovely little gelato place called Aldo’s. There’s actually alot of gelato places in Cancun, which surprised me. They pretty much started shoveling gelato samples into our mouthes the minute we walked up to the counter. But I’m not complaining! It was delicious! I ended up getting a waffle cone with Almond gelato–heaven!
And this is us on our last day of living like beach bums, soaking up the sun. Let me tell you, it was SWEET.
Amy Atlas has featured several baseball themed dessert tables on her blog the last few days. Seeing as how we are so close in proximity to St. Louis and (naturally) cheering on the Cardinals, I thought it’d be fun to share a few of the photos on here. Too see more, click on the link above each picture.
While I don’t typically like to be in front of the camera, I had to show off some of my latest finds to you all (and Jeremy agreed to not get my face in the shots so it was all good).
First up, a cupcake necklace from the Fair Grove craft fair. Love it!
Second, a delicious cupcake shirt from Forever 21.
I also found these cupcake socks while I was waiting in line at Forever 21 to buy my cupcake shirt. I couldn’t resist.
Obviously not fashion, but I couldn’t resist sharing this Hello Kitty that my friend Nicole got me for my birthday. Yes, I know how old I am…but I don’t care, it’s adorable!
That’s all for now. I won’t be posting next Monday or Wednesday due to a vacation in a very tropical location…but I’ll have a little recap of our trip the following Friday. Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Holiday parties are getting into full-swing! The first round of festivities are gorgeous fall parties and spooky halloween bashes. Celebrate with one of these deliciously fun, fall themed desserts! My favorite are the black cats! What’s yours?
A few weeks ago on a nice, bright Saturday morning I took a little road trip with my friend Sharla to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets. We had a great time and scored some awesome bargains. However, my favorite find of the whole trip was this doughnut pan from Norpro. I have been wanting one for some time and was really excited to finally find one that was a great brand at a decent price.
The store where I bought the pan also had this apple cider doughnut mix conveniently placed next to it. I’ve been seriously longing for an apple cider doughnut from Edwards Apple Orchard from when we lived up in Rockford. This place is amazing…the coolest general store with all kinds of yummy stuff, finger lickin’ bbq, some of the best apple pie I’ve EVER had (and yes, we DID try a slice with cheddar cheese and it was good!!) and their beyond drool-worthy apple cider doughnuts! Jeremy and I have seriously discussed taking a weekend trip to Rockford just for the doughnuts at the orchard (of course I’d probably have to sneak in some Chicago shopping hehe). They also have a petting zoo, live music and apple picking galore! Oh how I miss it! Apparently, they don’t have a website but here are some pics I found.
Ok so back to my doughnut mix! I made them this past weekend with the new pan and I have to say that I loved both! The pan worked wonderfully however, the side of the doughnuts that were in the pan got a bit darker and a tad more done than the other side. Not an issue really, just looks kind of funny. And the mix was great! Not quite the caliber of the orchard doughnuts but really, really good. We liked them hot out of the pan, brushed with butter and dipped in cinnamon and sugar but they were even better after they had cooled off and set for a while. You could really taste the apple cider and the texture was very moist and cake-like. Loved them! Of course I’ll be trying from scratch doughnuts next but if I ever need any in a pinch, I’ll definitely go with this brand!
My original intent for this post was that it would be a recipe for pumpkin BROWNIES (or blondies..whatever) but about a quarter of the way through whipping these up I realized that I was not going to end up with the dense, chewy, pumpkin-y brownies I was dreaming of but most likely, a cake. And I was right. I was definitely a little disappointed at first but got over it pretty quickly after my first bite.
It was probably one of the most moist pumpkin cakes I’ve ever had and so wonderfully spiced. It’s good enough to stand on it’s own without frosting but would most certainly be even more awesome with a layer of cream cheese frosting or a dollop of homemade whipped cream. I took it to a family function and didn’t bring any home, so that’s a good sign! So, I suppose it worked out but I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin brownie recipe!
In an electric mixer, beat oil and sugar. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and beat into wet ingredients just until combined.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
*I also put an 11 oz. bag of butterscotch chips in these but since they weren't thick like brownies, they all sunk to the bottom half of the cake. So, it's up to you if you want to add them or not.