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.
Jeremy and I recently had the chance to sample another new cupcake place in Springfield, MO called Star Cakes: Cups of Cakes that opened just this past September (one of MANY that we have now…although not quite as many as all the self-serve fro yo places…I’ll do a post on that another day). Their store ran a special deal for buy a dozen cupcakes at half-price so we got to taste a good variety of their cupcakes the day we went. They also had chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies so I went ahead and got a chocolate chip cookie to go with our DOZEN cupcakes. It’s a hard job I tell ya.
Anyway, we gathered our bounty and headed home. The chocolate chip cookie didn’t quite make it to the house…it was a really good, thick, chewy cookie and Jeremy and I both liked it alot! As for the cupcakes, I chose nine different flavors: Star Cake a La Mode, Fudge Star, Red Star Velvet, Chocolate PB Star, Strawberry, Hawaiian Star, Pumpkin, Carrot Cake and Milky Way. You can check out the descriptions of each on their menu here.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a favorite out of the group and but you really can’t go wrong with pumpkin and that was probably the one I liked the most, moist and very fall-appropriate with a yummy cream cheese frosting. The rest, to me at least, didn’t taste quite as from-scratch that I’m used to and it seemed like a lot of artificial flavors were used. My least favorite was a toss-up between the Hawaiian Star and Strawberry…too much artificial going on for me.
Overall, I think it will be interesting to see who survives the cupcake wars going on in Springfield right now…and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of new cupcake places to come to town! Just more research I *have* to do! 😉
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.)
This past Saturday I got to help my friend Betsy make a first birthday cake. I think it turned out SUPER cute and for the most part it was a very easy cake to make. You only need one, 9×13 cake and then a smaller circular cake if you choose to make a “moon”, like we did. It was so much fun!
Check out this link for more detailed insturctions.
(p.s. sorry about the pic quality…forgot my camera, ugh!)
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.
So the initial sugar-high has worn off and your kids STILL have enough candy left to get them bouncing off the walls for several days. You need to get rid of that candy FAST. Try some of these delicious, Halloween candy-packed desserts!
I’ve been blessed lately with an overabundance of apples, as I’m sure many of you have. One of my favorite things to do with lots of apples, specifically Golden Delicious apples, is make my mom’s German Apple Cake.
She has been making this cake every since I can remember. As a kid, when the air got cool and the leaves started changing color, we knew that apple cake and apple crisp were in the very near future. Of course mine and my sister’s favorite part was each getting a beater to lick after my mom had whipped up the cream cheese frosting. I’m sure I tried more than once to either steal or somehow trick my sister into giving me her beater…I was obnoxious like that.
I love making this cake as an adult because not only of the memories, but I can appreciate the simple goodness of it even more now. The flavor of cinnamon and chunks of soft apples along with the smooth cream cheese frosting are downright yummy. And I love that it forms kind a kind of sugary “crust” along the edges. So, so, SO good. If you have apples coming out your ears, try this cake. You’ll love it.
4 c. Peeled, Sliced/Chunked Apples (About 4-5 apples. I prefer golden delicious.)
½-3/4 c. Black Walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
8 oz. Cream Cheese, cold
5 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
½ t. Salt
1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (which is what I did) or grease and flour.
Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the apples and walnuts, mix in thoroughly and let set for 5 minutes or so, allowing the juices to soak into the batter. Spread into your baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took 40) until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely and then frost with cream cheese frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream the butter and cream cheese on high until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth. Add vanilla and salt and thoroughly incorporate.
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!
So, you want to make fudge but are terrified of candy thermometers and have no idea what the heck soft-ball stage means?! Not to worry, I have a fabulous, EASY recipe for Maple-Walnut Fudge from the Brown Eyed Baker. In mere minutes, you will have creamy, delicious fudge without standing over a stove for hours or having to think about the atomic structure of sugar crystals. I have to admit, there are times when I’m making homemade candy that it feels like I’m doing some weird science experiment in a lab rather than just cooking in my kitchen. Thankfully, this was NOT one of those times.
This recipe was in fact super easy and, I believe, fail-proof. The texture was very smooth and the maple flavor was perfect. The only thing I did different was use two teaspoons of Pure Grade A Maple Syrup instead of the extract because that was all I had. If you’ve never made homemade fudge before, don’t be afraid…start with this recipe…you will be a fudge-making fool before you know it!
Butter an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch square pan. Line with parchment paper or foil, and butter that; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and butter. Bring to a full boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly (no lower than medium-low) and boil for an additional 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and maple flavoring. Transfer the mixture to a standing mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat the fudge on medium speed until thick and glossy – about 3 minutes. Fold in the walnuts and pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Slice the fudge into 1-inch squares and serve. (Fudge can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)
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!
These are some of my most favorite cookies ever. I’m sure I say that about a LOT of cookies but I really mean it with these! This is another recipe from my friend Judy (I’ve never had a cake/cookie/etc of hers that ISN’T awesome) and it is one of the most wonderfully soft, slightly chewy, perfectly spiced cookies I’ve ever had. They are not too sweet and so yum…one of those you could eat 4 or 5 or 10 of without thinking twice. Or maybe that’s just me.
Totally addictive and perfect for this time of year.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the shortening until softened. Gradually add the 1 cup of granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and molasses; beat well. Add half of flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir remaining flour in with a wooden spoon.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the coarse or granulated sugar. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Cool for 2 minutes and then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
The nights are getting cooler which means it’s time to break out the hot cocoa and apple cider. I thought it would be fun to share some recipes for hot drinks, both classic and new. Oh and for those who prefer a bit of booze in your holiday drink, I’ve got a couple of those too.