Whole Grain, Low-Fat Carrot Cake

I can confidently say that after making this healthy version of carrot cake, I will never, ever make the regular, sugary, fat-laden version EVER again.  I can’t even believe I’m saying that!  I just couldn’t believe how good this cake was not to mention it’s full of fruits, veggies and whole grains.  I made it for a dinner party and it was a huge hit!

The only thing I was a little unsure of was how the cream cheese frosting would turn out.  I wanted something pretty close to the real thing so I read up on ways to make my own powdered sugar out of Sugar in the Raw and much to my surprise it worked!  All you need is a coffee grinder, food processor or blender, throw the sugar in and give it a good whirl and voila!  Homemade powdered sugar!  Ok, so it’s not quite as fine as the real stuff but close enough!

This cake was totally delicious, moist and guilt-free!  I promise you will L.O.V.E. this cake and never want the “real thing” again!

Whole Grain, Low-Fat Carrot Cake
 
Ingredients
Carrot Cake
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 t. Baking Soda
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Fine sea Salt
  • 3 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Nutmeg
  • 2 Large Eggs, 3 Egg Whites
  • ½ c. Safflower Oil
  • ¾ c. Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1½ c. Sugar in the Raw
  • 4 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 c. Grated Carrots, squeezed dry
  • 8 oz. Crushed Pineapple, drained
  • ½ c. Chopped Black Walnuts (or toasted pecans)
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 12 oz. Organic Neufchatel Cheese
  • 1 c. Sugar in Raw, processed to powdered sugar consistency in coffee grinder (or food processor/blender)
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • ⅓ c. Black Walnuts (or toasted pecans)
Instructions
For the Carrot Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a medium bowl beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Fold in black walnuts.
  3. Pour batter into a prepared pan and bake in oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Beat Neufchatel in an electric mixer until smooth. Add processed sugar and beat until granules have fully dissolved (there should only be a few). Beat in vanilla.
To Assemble Cake
  1. Trim edges off of cake and cut in half. Spread half of frosting on cake and place other cake half on top. Spread with remaining frosting and sprinkle with black walnuts.
Notes
Serves 16.

 

 

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DC Bakery Review #1: Sprinkles Cupcakes

Yay! I'm at Sprinkles!

Disclaimer:  These pictures were taken with my phone.  At night.  Sorry.

I recently took a whirlwind trip to DC to visit one of my best friends, Joelle.  I had already visited once a few years ago and got the full tourist experience–we hit up all the landmarks and historic places.  It was awesome!  So this time we did something a little different than most people do who visit DC:  we had one HUGE girls weekend with shopping and eating 24/7.  It. Was. Awesome.

One of my stated goals while I was in DC was to hit up a few cupcake shops that we didn’t have in little ‘ole Springfield, MO; namely Sprinkles and Georgetown.  These two are probably a couple of the best known bakeries in the country thanks to TV and I had to see what all the hype is about.  We also got around to Alexandria Cupcake and a bonus bakery that a random lady at Sprinkles told us about called Baked and Wired, but for now I’ll start with our least favorite of the four:  Sprinkles.

Picture of Candace with the other judges, host and builders from Cupcake Wars on the wall at Sprinkles.
Bakery case at Sprinkles.

Yes, I know.  How could I?!  Everyone loves Candace Nelson on Cupcake Wars.  She’s the pretty judge, the cupcake queen, the “founder of the world’s first cupcake bakery”, etc, etc.  But I have to be honest…I simply was not impressed with her cupcakes like I thought I would be.  They weren’t horrible, just not exciting and amazing.  The flavors were very reserved and honestly kind of boring (much like the small, two-table storefront!).  We chose Vanilla, Chocolate Marshmallow, Chai Latte and Cinnamon Sugar.

Sprinkles box with some of our goodies.

Cinnamon Sugar was the least favorite…I guess we didn’t get the memo it was sans frosting and more close in likeness to a buttermilk cinnamon sugar muffin.

Cinnamon Sugar

Next, Chocolate Marshmallow…the cake was a good, mild chocolate cake but it just barely had a dollop of marshmallow creme in the middle and a thick layer of chocolate over the whole cupcake.  It was just ok also.

Chocolate Marshmallow

Next the Vanilla, which was pretty good.  It had a nice vanilla flavor and the frosting was not too sweet, but all the sprinkles covering the top of it kind of ruined it for me.  I mean, there were ALOT of sprinkles covering that thing.

Vanilla

Joelle and I agreed the Chai Latte was definitely the best one with a yummy chai flavor throughout the cupcake and frosting. Oh, and those little dot things on top?  Definitely NOT edible.

So Sprinkles was indeed a bit disappointing but things only got better from there.  I’ll have three more reviews of the other bakeries coming over the next three weeks so stay tuned!  But before you go I have to ask–have you ever been to Sprinkles and if so, what was your impression??  Did you like it?  The best you’ve ever had or have you had better??  I’m curious!

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Pineapple Upside Down Pound Cake

I wanted to make something extra special for my father-in-laws birthday because he definitely deserved it.  He is one of the most selfless, giving people I know and his birthday lunch needed a fabulous cake!  Jeremy told me he had mentioned pineapple and yellow cake so I thought hmmm, Pineapple Upside Down Cake??  Sounded good to me!  Now I had never made one before but I had had plenty in younger days…Pineapple Upside Down Cake seemed to show up at every church potluck and family gathering we had.  You know the kind, made with boxed yellow cake mix and canned pineapple slices..and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that version but I wanted to try my hand at a totally from scratch Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

I found this recipe on simplyrecipes.com and only made a couple of changes, nothing major at all.  As for the cake, I really liked the way it turned out, more like a pound cake.  I thought the addition of almond flour was somewhat odd but it added a nice texture to the cake.  It was definitely better the second day after the pineapple juices and butter/brown sugar mixture had time to seep into the cake a bit more.  I served it at room temperature with vanilla ice cream and everyone loved it.  I’d say it was a successful birthday!

Pineapple Upside Down Pound Cake
 
Ingredients
Topping
  • 1 c. Firmly Packed Regular or Dark Brown Sugar
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 5 Slices Fresh, Cored Pineapple (or 1, 20 oz. Can Pineapple Slices)
  • Maraschino Cherries
Cake
  • 1½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 6 T. Cake Flour
  • 6 T. Almond Flour/Meal
  • ¾ t. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1¾ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ c. Sour Cream
Instructions
For the Topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch, round cake pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly into pan. Pour butter evenly over brown sugar. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer on top of the butter/sugar mixture and fill the center of each pineapple with maraschino cherries (I used 5 cherries in each center).
  2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, almond flour/meal, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Pour cake batter into pan.
  3. Bake in oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a tested inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely or turn out onto a platter after 10 minutes and serve warm.
Notes
Serves 16.

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No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

The healthy recipes just keep getting better and better!  This week I’ve got a fabulous, super-quick recipe for no-bake energy bites…that taste like a cross between peanut butter cookie dough and no-bake cookies.  Can you say YUM??  They are full of good stuff that won’t send you on a sugar-high but instead provide a source of natural, tasty energy.  All you need is one bowl and handful of ingredients–get busy!

Recipe adapted from fooddoodles.com

No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
 
Ingredients
  • ½ c. All-Natural, Smooth Peanut Butter (or any nut butter you prefer)
  • ⅓ c. Honey
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • ¾ t. Fine Sea Salt
  • 1 c. Rolled Oats
  • ½ c. Wheat Germ
  • ½ c. White Whole Wheat Flour
  • Oats, Peanut Halves, etc for topping
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl stir together peanut butter, honey, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add oats, wheat germ and white whole wheat flour and stir until thoroughly mixed together. Form into 1" balls and roll in oats or top with peanut half. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 2 dozen.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Thought I’d share some St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes with you all!  I do believe the the rainbow with the pot o’ gold Rolos is my favorite–so cute. Which one do you love??

Shamrocks and Leprechaun Hats by Hoosier Homemade

Green Velvet by Love from the Oven

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream by Susi’s Kochen and Backen Adventures

Pot of Gold Cupcakes by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes by Fab Foods

Airhead Rainbows and Rolo Pot of Gold Cupcakes by The Fickle Pickle

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Bakery Review – TwentyOne Cakes in Nixa, MO

Cupcake places are popping up everywhere!  It’s madness I tell you!  Delicious, sweet (slightly sickening) madness!  Believe it or not, after Jeremy and I stopped at Stacey’s Sweets in Ozark, we hightailed it to Nixa to try ANOTHER new cupcake joint.  I have to be honest…this place was good but after trying several different kinds of cupcakes and a brownie at Stacey’s Sweets, I probably was a little sugared out at this point.  TwentyOne Cakes is in a house turned bakery right on Highway 14.  It’s a very straightforward, unassuming place.  I was surprised to walk in and see the cupcakes were actually mini cupcakes which I was VERY thankful for after gorging ourselves on EIGHT regular size ones not even an hour earlier.  There were also a couple of different kinds of cake pops, a HUGE peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and I believe there was a cake also that you could get by the slice.

My only criticism of this bakery was the lack of just a basic cupcake.  Most of the flavors were somewhat unique and different if not what some might consider “odd” and I really like to try at least a couple basic cupcakes when I go somewhere new.  Then again I might have just come on the wrong day.  I did however think her cakes were nice and moist (which is impressive for minis!) and the buttercreams were quite delicious.  And I wasn’t a fan of the cookie; it wasn’t quite as soft and chewy as I prefer.  But hey, that’s just me.  Overall, a delicious experience!  Here’s what we ended up choosing:

Maple Bacon

German Chocolate

Strawberry

Red Hot

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

If you are in Nixa, check this place out for a sweet fix!  And if you’ve been there, let me know what you think!

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Thin Mint Brownies with Bailey’s Buttercream

I am proud to say that my husband is now a chocolate and mint convert–all because of these brownies.  He said he wasn’t going to try them but then he saw them…and then he tasted them…and then he couldn’t keep his hands out of them.  Hah!  And I have to admit, they are GOOD.  I mean, I love anything mint and chocolate but these are one of the best renditions of that combo I’ve ever had…if I do say so myself.  The mint flavor from the Thin Mint cookies and Andes mints is not overwhelming and somewhat subtle and then the Bailey’s buttercream…oh my word, don’t even get me started.  It took so much restraint to keep from eating this frosting by the spoonful.

Now when I say Bailey’s, let me clarify.  When I went to purchase my bottle of Bailey’s I could not believe that is was nearly $20!!!  And all I needed was two-thirds of a cup!!  Ummmmmm, no, not happening.  So I thought hey, what about Irish cream flavored coffee creamer?  Yes!  Perfect.  Well, much to my surprise and delight I discovered that Bailey’s had their own brand of coffee creamer–for two bucks!   Score!  I knew I had some whiskey at home that I could throw in and I’d be good to go.

Perfect for St. Patty’s day!  You’ll love them–promise.

Thin Mint Brownies with Bailey's Buttercream
 
Ingredients
Thin Mint Brownies
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ⅔ c. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 T. Instant Coffee Granules
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • ⅔ c. Bailey's Irish Cream Creamer
  • 1 T. Whiskey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 Box Thin Mint Cookies (3 c. crushed cookies)
  • 1, 8.5 oz. Bag Andes Mints
Bailey's Buttercream
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 5 T. Bailey's Irish Cream Creamer
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 T. Whiskey
Instructions
For the Brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until combined. Set aside.
  3. Place chocolate, butter and instant coffee granules into a medium size bowl and melt in mircowave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each, until completely smooth. Set aside to cool a bit.
  4. Once the chocolate mixture is warm (NOT hot) add eggs, one at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add sugar, vanilla, Bailey's creamer and whiskey and whisk until combined.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, folding with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the crushed Thin Mint cookies.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. While the brownies are baking, chop up ⅔ (about 30 squares) of the Andes mint squares. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, sprinkle with the chopped Andes. Put back in oven for about 25-30 seconds, remove and spread melted Andes over the brownies. Let the brownies cool completely and frost.
For the Bailey's Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in two cups of the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, on low, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add 3 tablespoons of the Bailey's Irish Cream creamer and beat thoroughly. Beat in the remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time, on low until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, whiskey and remaining 2 tablespoons Bailey's creamer until completely incorporated. Chop remaining Andes mints, frost brownies and sprinkle with chopped mints.
Notes
Serves 18.

 

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No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats

Ladies and gentleman, I may have discovered my most absolutely, favorite, healthy dessert recipe to date!  To say these “rice krispie” bars are good is an understatement…they are amazing.  Quite truthfully, if given the choice between these bars and oh say a cupcake, I’d choose the bars!  Yes, that’s how good they are!

I found this recipe over at ohsheglows.com and just the words “no-bake” and “almond butter” drew me in immediately.  I think one thing that made a difference for my bars was the particular kind of brown rice cereal that I bought at our local health food store.  It’s made by Enjoy Life Foods and it was so crunchy and delicious in these.  I was a little skeptical about the bars holding together without any marshmallow like a typical rice krispie treat but the almond butter and honey works perfectly as a binder.  I did leave them in the fridge, just to be on the safe side and I actually liked them cold the best.

Do yourself a favor and try these immediately!

No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Krisp Treats
 
Ingredients
  • ½ c. Almond Butter (or any all-natural nut butter you prefer)
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 T. Unsalted Butter
  • ½ t. Fine Sea Salt
  • 3.5 c. Brown Rice Crisp Cereal
  • ⅛-1/4 c. Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, melted (for drizzle)
Instructions
  1. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot over low-medium heat, add the honey, butter, almond butter and salt. Stir well until combined and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir in the brown rice crisp cereal until thoroughly coated.
  3. Scoop into pan and spread evenly. Place in freezer to set for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from freezer and drizzle with the melted chocolate. Place in freezer to harden the chocolate, about 5 minutes. Slice into squares and serve or store in fridge until ready to serve.

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St. Patrick’s Day Desserts

I have very fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day as a child.  Especially if the day happened to fall on a schoolday.  We didn’t get just any old lunch for that day…no, we got a lunch filled with GREEN.  Yes, everything was covered in mold!!!!  Ok, not really, that’s actually not true.  My mom never fed us mold.  Not knowingly at least.  Anyway…I distinctly remember cottage cheese tinted with green food dye and shamrock sugar cookies with green frosting.  So healthy, right?  Oh who cares, we loved it and looked forward to it every year!

So, in honor of that fun tradition we had as kids, I found some green desserts for St. Patrick’s Day!  Typically, when you think green and dessert, the first thing that comes to mind is mint.  And I LOVE mint and chocolate combinations.  But I’m sure not everyone is as fond of the flavor as I am so I found a couple more green ideas–pistachio and green tea!  Green tea (or matcha) sounds a little strange but it is actually DELICIOUS in desserts.  And these flavors lend themselves to the possibility of a bit more, shall we say, natural, green color.

Check ’em out!

Mint

Mint Brownies

Mint Oreo Truffles

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Grasshopper Cheesecake

Pistachio

Pistachio Bundt Cake

Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Frozen Pistachio Pie

Pistachio Layer Cake

Green Tea

Green Tea Pound Cake

Green Tea Truffles

Green Tea White Chocolate Cookies

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McDonald’s Mash-Ups

McDonald's Hotcakes with Berries from their Fruit n' Yogurt Parfait, topped with their Granola and Syrup.

Ok who hasn’t at least once dipped their fries from their favorite fast food joint into some soft-serve ice cream?? That’s right, no one!  My favorite part about going to Wendy’s when I was a kid was dipping those hot, salty, crisp french fries into a cold, chocolate Frosty…no wonder I was a fat kid!  I also loved dipping my chicken nuggets from McDonald’s into honey–it’s good people, trust me!  Needless to say I got a total kick out of this food writer’s experimentation with some shall we say, unique dessert creations at McDonald’s.  Click here to see a slideshow with all six sweet monstrosities from the home of the golden arches.

What is YOUR favorite dessert mash-up from a fast food joint??

 

 

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Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake

I struggle with some recipes…in particular, bread puddings and crockpot cakes.  Why??  Because they are so darn hard to photograph!  It’s a crying shame that a couple of the most delicious types of desserts (especially bread pudding) just look plain ugly in photos.  Delicious?  Yes.  Photogenic??  No.  So hopefully I can convince you to make this crockpot cake based on my simple review of this recipe!

To say this cake is AWESOME is an understatement…it’s actually FREAKIN AWESOME.  I was making a dessert for a family get-together and was a little stumped because I knew everyone wanted something majorly chocolate but I didn’t want to just do a chocolate layer cake or cupcakes.  And then out of nowhere I remembered this Rocky Road Crockpot cake that one of my former co-worker’s had brought to work for a party and how absolutely, incredibly amazing it was.  So I thought why not swap out the nuts for cookies and voila!  Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake!  If you like chocolate, cake, gooey marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies and Oreos, you may like and possibly even love this dessert.  Oh and do I even have to mention the vanilla ice cream??  That’s kind of a no-brainer.

Enjoy!

Adapted from Southern Living Rocky Road Chocolate Cake

Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (18.25 oz) Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 (3.4 oz) Package Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
  • 3 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • ⅓ c. Butter, melted
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3¼ c. Milk, divided
  • 1 (3.4 oz) Package Chocolate Cook-and-Serve Pudding Mix
  • 2 c. Oreo Cookie Pieces
  • 2 c. Chocolate Chip Cookie Pieces (I used Keebler Elf Soft and Chewy)
  • 1 c. Bittersweet or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 c. Miniature Marshmallows
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease a 4-qt slow cooker or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cake mix, next 5 ingredients and 1¼ c. milk at medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour batter into slow cooker.
  3. Cook remaining 2 cups milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 5-8 minutes or until bubbles appear (do not boil); remove from heat.
  4. Sprinkle cook-and-serve pudding mix over batter. Slowly pour hot milk over pudding. Place a towel over the slow cooker and place lid on top (this prevents condensation from dripping into the cake). Cook on LOW for 3½ hours. Meanwhile, mix chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips together in a large bowl.
  5. Turn off slow cooker or onto low if yours has that setting. Sprinkle with the cookie, marshmallow and chocolate chip mixture and let stand 15 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly melted. Spoon into dessert dishes and serve with ice cream, if desired.
Notes
Serves 8-10.

 

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Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins

I have to say that this whole new world of baking without flour is really quite exciting to me.  I never knew that there were so many options!  I wanted to do another gluten-free recipe and also wanted some kind of muffin and was so excited when I stumbled upon this recipe from So Good and Tasty for Cherry Almond Meal Muffins.  I only modified it a bit by subbing blueberries for the cherries and throwing in some applesauce and additional spices and extracts.  And wow, this muffin is delicious!  I absolutely love the taste of texture from the almond meal and can honestly say I think I like it better than flour!  Jeremy also loved them which was the real test to me..he could hardly wait for them to cool off before trying one!  We ate them warmed up for just a few seconds with a teensy bit of unsalted butter and a drizzle of honey (not needed but oh so good)…mmmmmm!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Almond Meal
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • ¼ t. Cinnamon
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¼ c. Honey
  • ¼ c. Olive or Safflower Oil
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. Unsweetened Applesauce (I used all-natural, chunky applesauce)
  • 1 c. Fresh Blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular size muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate, large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add in the honey, oil, vanilla and applesauce and stir to combine.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Pour batter into the muffin tin, filling to the top if you want a nice muffin dome. Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in muffin tins for about 5 minutes then remove and place on wire rack until completely cool.
Notes
Makes 8 muffins.

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Bakery Review – My Daddy’s Cheesecake in Cape Girardeau

As I mentioned last week in my B&B Weekend post, we stopped in at a bakery called My Daddy’s Cheesecake while were out and about exploring Cape Girardeau and hitting up antique shops.  I did NOT expect the town to have a bakery, let alone one that offered all that this one did!  The building was very straightforward, nothing kitschy or frilly about it and kind of reminded me a of a Panera Bread or McCallister’s restaurant.  They did, in fact, have quite a menu of food other than dessert but that was NOT what I was there for–I had come to get a sugar high!

First of all, let’s just start with the selection.  They had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR bakery cases jam-packed with so many different, mouth-watering treats that I was immediately overwhelmed and thought “Holy crap, how am I going to decide!”.  We’re talking one whole case with only cheesecake (of course!), another with cupcakes, gooey butter cake slices, chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli, etc, another with muffins, cinnamon rolls, Italian pastries and yet another case pretty much devoted entirely to cookies…you name it, I’m pretty sure they had it!

So after a little (ok, a LOT of) deliberation, we made our choices!  So, here they are, in no particular order.  Ok, that’s a lie.  They are definitely in order, from least favorite to most favorite.  These are my selections, although Jeremy and I agreed on our top three.  Yay!   Ok, here we go!  (First, a picture of the spread!  I’m sure people thought we were absolute pigs!!)

First up in sixth place the Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookie.  I chose this cookie because not only were there only two left (from a massive tray of them) the girl that was helping raved on and on about them.  I was excited.  And then I was sad.  These cookies were, in a word, horrible.  It was dry, crunchy and tasteless and I wanted so badly to spit it out but didn’t have a napkin.  I knew I should have gone with my gut and got the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie and I was *this close* to going back up to the counter and asking for a trade-in or something.  But I didn’t.  So here is the red velvet cookie, dead last.  Sigh.

Fifth, the baklava.  I love baklava.  LOVE.  But this just didn’t hit the spot for me.  It was ok, but a little dry and lacking some serious honey/gooey factor that is a necessary component of great baklava.  Not bad, just not outstanding.

Fourth, the Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake.  It was decent but to be honest both the cheesecakes to me were more thick (solid?) and like a very firm ganache consistency than they were creamy.  The texture was just a bit off for me.

Third, the Amaretto Cheesecake.  Again, texture weird, but the Amaretto flavor redeemed it slightly for me–that was YUMMY.

Second, the Chocolate Ganache Cupcake.  I have to say this was a very good cupcake.  The cake was tender and fluffy, the chocolate frosting was delicious and the chocolate shavings on top were so yummy.  Only complaint was the massive tunnel of chocolate ganache inside the cupcake that had completely hardened.  A little awkward trying to cut into the cupcake but we managed!

And, drum roll please, first place goes to…the Cannoli!  Woo hoo!  This thing was deeeeeelicious.  I couldn’t stop eating it.  And I didn’t.  And I did not care.

So the desserts were a little less than stellar and seemed to be more style than substance but I’d really like to go back and try some other things, since they have such a variety!   And I heard people raving about the cinnamon rolls which were so huge and nearly sold out…I KNEW I should have tried one!  Oh well, next time.

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Dessert Prints

I’ve been meaning to incorporate some fun dessert prints into my kitchen decor for quite awhile now.  So, I finally got online the other night to do some research.  Here are some of my favorites from Etsy.

(Click on each photo to see the seller’s info.)

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Amaretti Cookies

I bet you thought I had forgot about my New Year’s resolution to make one International dessert a month but guess what??  I did not forget!  As a matter of fact I made Brazo de Mercedes in January but things, shall we say, didn’t work out quite as I had planned.  So we’ll come back to that another day.  I’m still a little emotional about it.

I decided on Italian for February because, quite frankly, I REALLY wanted to make Amaretti cookies.  The first time I had ever had them was when Jeremy and I visited Missouri Baking Company in St. Louis and I fell in love with the morsels of chewy almond goodness.  I seriously think I have some kind of problem when it comes to almond-flavored things…meaning I have NO CONTROL over my hand and mouth.  As I made the almond paste for this, my food processor had hardly had the chance to cool off before I starting shoving bites of the sweet almond mixture in my mouth.  It was like an almond paste induced feeding frenzy.  And then I remembered, “Wait!  This has to go in a recipe!!”.  Oh…yeah…the cookies.  Almost forgot about them.  Ahem.

I managed to gather myself and actually make the cookies.   Go me.  I wasn’t sure what recipe to use but I settled on this one from Smitten Kitchen.  Her recipes always look so amazing and this is the first one I’ve actually made (I think).  They turned out amazing…little crisp around the edges, majorly chewy and completely delicious.  I did discover that the longer they sat, the softer they became which is usually totally opposite of how it is with baked goods of any kind.  I made them on a Friday evening and by Monday they were still delicious.  After Monday….well, I don’t know, because we ate them all!!

If you’re an almond lover such as myself, you MUST try these cookies immediately.

Amaretti Cookies
 
Ingredients
Chewy Amaretti Cookies
  • 1, 7 oz. (3/4 c.) Tube Pure Almond Paste (Found in the baking aisle or you can make your own..which is what I did. See recipe below.)
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Large Egg Whites, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
Almond Paste
  • ¼ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 6 T. Powdered Sugar
  • ¾ c. Almonds (original recipe calls for blanched but I just use raw, whole almonds)
  • 2 T. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1¼ t. Pure Almond Extract
Instructions
For the Almond Paste
  1. Process almonds, powder sugar and granulated sugar in a food processor until the nuts are very finely ground. Add corn syrup and almond extract and process until the mixture is thoroughly blended and moist enough to hold together when pressed in your hand. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and an air-tight container until ready to use.
For the Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Pulse the almond paste, sugar and salt in a food processor until broken up, then add egg white and puree until smooth. Using a 2 t. measuring spoon, drop batter onto pans, about 2 inches apart. They will spread quite a bit so make sure there is plenty of room between the cookies. I got 8 on the pan.
  3. Bake in the very center of the oven for 8 minutes, rotate pan and then bake for another 7 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from parchment paper. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 25 cookies. TIP: To easily remove cookies from the parchment paper, gently push up on the cookie with your finger from underneath the parchment paper. It should peel away easily.

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Soft Baked Cinnamon Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bars

Have you ever wanted a nice warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning but just didn’t have the time to actually make AND eat it??  Yeah, been there.  Our mornings are fairly rushed around here and we hardly ever have a sit down breakfast, except for the occasional big splurge breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning.  And those are few and far between.  What a shame.

So, if you’re like us and just want something to grab on your way to work, these baked oatmeal bars are what you need!  It’s all of the ingredients in a hearty, filling bowl of oatmeal put them into one neat little bar.  Besides heart-healthy oats, they’re sweetened with honey and have wheat germ and wheat bran for added fiber and protein.  They’d even be great for an afternoon snack when vending machines are practically screaming your name.  Delicious, nutritious, yummy and most importantly, travel-ready!

Soft Baked Cinnamon Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 3½ c. Thick Rolled Oats
  • ¼ c. Wheat Germ
  • ¼ c. Wheat Bran
  • 2 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Nutmeg
  • ¼ t. Cloves
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Sea Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ c. Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 2 T. Safflower Oil
  • 1 c. Skim Milk
  • ¾ c. Chopped, Dried Apples (or raisins, cherries, etc)
  • ⅓ c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the oats, wheat germ, wheat bran, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl stir together the eggs, honey, vanilla, applesauce, oil and milk. Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add chopped apples and pecans.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
Notes
Makes about 18 bars. Tip: Feel free to substitute any kind of add-in for the dried apples and pecans...whatever nut, fruit, chocolate chip, etc you may like.

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Art and Romance of Chocolate

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of helping my friend Robyn, of Red’s Cupcakes, hand out her amazing Chocolate Espresso cupcakes to hundreds of chocolate loving people at the Art and Romance of Chocolate event in downtown Springfield, MO.  The event proceeds went to the Friends of the Springfield Art Museum and there were judging in certain categories.  You can see the list of participants and who won what, here.

It was a fun event for a great cause and I was honored to be part of it.  I did manage to make it around to all the vendors before the event started and snap some pictures with my phone (sorry for the poor pic quality!) of their amazing creations.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what everything was (except Red’s Cupcakes–first photo!) so just enjoy the pictures and give it your best guess! 😉

 

 

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Hummingbird Cake

My resolution to bake classic cakes has so far been a success, starting with this Coconut Cake and now the Hummingbird Cake.  If you’ve never heard of the Hummingbird Cake before, it goes all the way back to, well, it’s hard to tell where or when exactly it came on the scene.  The first published recipe for the cake showed up in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine and was submitted by a woman named Mrs. L.H. Wiggins but it’s roots trace from the deep south aaaaaallll the way to Jamaica!  How crazy is that?  You can read more of the history and details here.

I used a recipe from myrecipes.com that was a little of a modernized version of the cake with the addition of white chocolate to the cake and the frosting and a touch of almond extract.  I was tempted at first to leave the white chocolate out of the cake but I’m so glad I didn’t–I LOVED getting little bits of white chocolate in every other bite.  This cake is very, VERY dense, almost like banana bread and the flavors of the almond extract, cinnamon and banana are incredibly delicious.  I can’t believe I waited so long to make this cake!

Hummingbird Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • 3 Large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 t. Almond Extract
  • 1, 8 oz. Can Crushed Pineapple, undrained
  • 1 c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans, divided
  • 2 c. Chopped Bananas (about 3 medium-large bananas)
  • 4 oz. White Chocolate, finely chopped
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1½ c. White Chocolate Chips, melted and cooled
  • 1½ (8 oz.) Packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 T. Butter, softened
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ c. Chopped Toasted Pecans (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3, 9-inch round pans and then line with parchment paper (optional).
For the Cake
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (do not overbeat). Stir in vanilla and almond extract, pineapple, pecans, bananas and white chocolate.
  2. Divide batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until creamy. Add melted chocolate and vanilla, beating well. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed until mixture reaches desired spreading consistency (do not overbeat).
To Assemble the Cake
  1. Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle ½ cup of chopped pecans on top. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Notes
Serves 16.

 

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Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

A friend and I had been chatting about how much we love to cook and, like myself, she is into very healthy and nutritious cooking (I said COOKING..not BAKING).  We’d often find ourselves at an event where we both brought homemade dishes and we’d be asking each other for the recipes at the end of the night, so we decided what better way to share our love of cooking and yummy recipes than start a gourmet cooking club??  So, our first official cooking club get together was this past January and it was SO fun!  The food was all delicious and it gave me the opportunity to try out a new healthy dessert recipe–Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies!

My inspiration for these cookies was based off of one of my FAVORITE “healthy” indulgences from Trader Joe’s…cayenne covered dried mango dipped in dark, bittersweet chocolate.  It is one of the best things to ever cross my lips and sadly, since we have no Trader Joe’s here in Springfield, MO, I’m not sure I’ll ever get it again!  But I loved the combination so much I thought I’d try it in these cookies.  Now the cookies themselves were absolutely WONDERFUL.  They were soooo soft and tender and the heat from the red pepper combined with the bittersweet chocolate was out of this world!  The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe was…the mango!  It was such a bummer, but it just didn’t work for this cookie, in my opinion.  So, I’d omit it for sure in the future and went ahead and wrote the recipe without it.  But I’m not too upset about it–I still discovered an amazing, nutritious cookie recipe!

Recipe adapted from injennieskitchen.com

Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • 1 t. Cayenne or Ground Red Pepper
  • ¼ c. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ¼ c. Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • ¾ c. Sugar in the Raw
  • 1 T. Molasses
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet)
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda salt and pepper. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, molasses and pumpkin on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Wrap dough in a large piece of plastic wrap, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight (I refrigerated mine for about 24 hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. gently form dough into 1½-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 16 minutes, rotating pans once and switching racks halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Notes
Makes about 25 cookies.

 

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