Candy Cane Dip and Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I’m sure you’ve learned by now I have a slight obsession with mint and chocolate.  From cupcakes to brownies, it might be my all time favorite combination.  This dip and cookies take that obsession to a whole new level.  The dip is divine.  As in, eat-it-with-a-spoon, divine.  It’s creamy, pepperminty, flecked with candy cane chunks and so different than anything else I’ve made for Christmas.  Seriously, if you want to wow people at your next holiday party, make this dip.  It literally took me about five minutes to mix together and then I made these Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies to go with them.  A match made in heaven.  The dip would also be good with bite-size brownies, chocolate chip cookies or even pretzels.

Enjoy!

Candy Cane Dip and Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 7 oz. Marshmallow Creme
  • 1 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1½ t. Pure Peppermint Oil
  • ½ c. Crushed Candy Canes (plus a little bit more for garnish)
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, marshmallow creme and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the peppermint oil and crushed candy canes. Place in a bowl and garnish with more crushed candy canes. Serve immediately with cookies, brownies, etc.

 

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Big, Fat, Soft Almond Sugar Cookies

Tonight’s recipe is courtesy of Pinterest!  From the blog, Confections from the Cody Kitchen, these soft almond sugar cookies are some of the best I’ve ever had.  I’m talking unbelievably soft, slightly chewy, packed with almond flavor (which I LOVE), don’t require rolling and cutting and don’t even need frosting!  Does it get much better than that?!  I think not!  I never thought I’d find a sugar cookie that wasn’t in some way enhanced with the addition of fluffy, dreamy buttercream but these cookies simply don’t need it.  Now you could always skip the step of rolling them in sugar and go ahead and make frosting but I’m just telling ya right now, save yourself the trouble. You’ve got better things to do.

I did of course make a few minor changes to the original recipe (which is reflected in the recipe I’ve posted).  I can’t help myself.  I thought the almond flavor wasn’t quite cutting it so I added a LOT more to my batter, but you do what suits you.  They’ll be fabulous no matter what.

P.S. If you still feel you need that frosting (I can’t blame you), try these amazing Sugar Cookie Bars or these Thick Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (in a different shape, of course).  Two of my faves.

Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Big, Fat, Soft Almond Sugar Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ c. Sugar
  • 1½ sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ c. Shortening
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 T. Pure Almond Extract
  • 2¾ c. Cake Flour
  • 1 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 T. Cornstarch
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • Coarse Sanding Sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together sugar, butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and almond extract and mix just until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat on medium speed just until flour is incorporated. Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate for one hour or overnight (which is what I did).
  3. Roll dough into 2" balls, about the size of a golf ball and roll in sanding sugar. Place on baking sheets about two inches apart and bake for 12 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through. Let cool on pans for two minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 35 cookies.

 

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Fantasy Fudge

The other day I tried store bought fudge for the first time ever (at least that I can remember).  I literally spit it out.  I could hardly believe how gross it was.  It was just chocolate fudge but it almost tasted like fake chocolate and was so grainy.  Oh my gosh, disgusting.  I honestly wondered how do you make something that tastes so bad?  I mean, you’d almost have to do it on purpose.  And then do you say to yourself, “Wow, this is so gross!  Let’s sell it!”?!!  Mind boggling.  At least to me.  So please do me a favor and DO NOT buy store-bought fudge this Christmas.  It is not difficult to make at home and homemade it so, so, SO much better.  I beg of you, make it yourself!!!!

Ok, now that my impassioned plea has been made I’m going to share the absolute best fudge recipe out there—my mom’s!  She makes this fudge every year for Christmas and trust me when I say it is THE BEST there is.  Super creamy, melt in your mouth chocolate goodness.  Of course my favorite way to eat it is to freeze a bunch of it and when a chocolate craving strikes, I dig a piece out and enjoy it cold.  Soooooo good.  I know there are a lot of fudge recipes out there, but go with this one!  It is tried and true and won’t let you down!

Enjoy!

Fantasy Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 3 c. Sugar
  • ¾ c. Butter
  • ⅔ c. Evaporated Milk
  • 1, 12-oz. pkg. Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1, 7-oz. Jar Kraft Marshmallow Creme
  • 1 c. Nuts, chopped (I love English Walnuts)
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar, margarine and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to full rolling bail, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate till melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts & vanilla; beat until blended. Pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.
Notes
Makes 64, 1-inch pieces.

 

 

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Dark Chocolate and Candy Cane Cheescake Cupcakes

Hey guys.  Ok, second recipe this week…Dark Chocolate & Candy Cane Cheesecake Cupcakes.  Yes, you read that right.  Cheesecake and cupcakes in one glorious little package.  I loooooove cheesecake cakes.  My first ever was this Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake a few years ago that I made for Jeremy’s birthday when we were first married.  And there have been many since then, including this Chocolate Stout and Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cupcakes and these Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes. But this one is BY FAR my favorite.

I started this cupcake with a layer of crushed Oreo crust, followed by the delicious candy cane cheesecake layer, a dark chocolate cake layer and topped it off with dreamy peppermint frosting and candy cane bark.  OMG, to die for.  My only little issue with this cupcake was the Oreo crust wanted to stick to the wrappers a little but I think that could be avoided with high-quality wrappers.  Mine were pretty cheap.  Also, if you do candy cane bark, be sure to add it the day you plan on serving these.  Otherwise, the moisture from the frosting will cause the little peppermint pieces to bleed onto your cupcake.  Which doesn’t make it taste bad, but I’m not so sure you want your cupcakes to look like they’re bleeding.  But hey, whatever!

I hope you love these as much as I do!  They are definitely going into my regular holiday baking rotation.

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Candy Cane Cheescake Cupcakes
 
Ingredients
Oreo Crust
  • 2 c. Oreo Crumbs
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter
Candy Cane Cheesecake
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ c. Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • ¼ t. Pure Peppermint Oil
  • ½ c. Crushed Candy Canes
Dark Chocolate Cake
  • 1½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1⅓ c. Sugar
  • ½ c. Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1¼ t. Baking Powder
  • 1¼ t. Baking Soda
  • 1 t. Salt
  • ¼ c., plus 1 T. Vegetable Oil
  • ⅔ c. Whole Milk
  • ½ c., plus 1 T. Strong-Brewed Coffee
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Peppermint Frosting
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ½ c. Shortening
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • ½ c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ½ t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 t. Pure Peppermint Oil
Candy Cane Bark
  • ½ lb. White Chocolate Candy Coating
  • ½ c. Crushed Candy Canes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers.
For the Oreo Crust
  1. Mix melted butter and Oreos together in a medium bowl. Press 1 tablespoon of mixture into each cupcake tin.
For the Candy Cane Cheesecake
  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in egg and peppermint oil. Stir in crushed candy canes. Fill each cupcake tin with 1 scant tablespoon of cheesecake.
For the Dark Chocolate Cake
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Spoon 2 tablespoon cake batter into each cupcake tin*.
  2. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes. Cool completely in tins on wire racks. Frost with peppermint frosting and top with candy cane bark.
For the Peppermint Frosting
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and shortening until fluffy. Gradually beat in 2 cups of the powdered sugar and then ¼ cup of the heavy whipping cream. Beat in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar and ¼ cup of heavy whipping cream. Beat in the vanilla and peppermint oil.
For the Candy Cane Bark
  1. Melt white chocolate in microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring between each. Spread onto a medium baking sheet lined with foil. Cover with crushed candy canes. Put in freezer for 1-2 minutes until bark has hardened completely.
Notes
Makes 24 cheesecake cupcakes. *I had enough chocolate cake batter to make 6 plain chocolate cupcakes. *Some of my cupcakes sunk in the middle, which sometimes happens with cheesecake. They still turned out fine. Just FYI.

 

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Chunky Cherry, Oreo & Brownie Bark

Hey friends!  I have good news.  I had so many recipes that I wanted to share with you before Christmas that I absolutely couldn’t decide which ones to do and made the decision to do them all!  Yes, ALL.  Woo hoo!  So, one recipe every day this week.  I’m going to start with a super easy one today for this crazy good Chunk Cherry, Oreo & Brownie Bark.  This is inspired by a certain frozen custard creation that my husband likes to get at out local custard joint, Andy’s.  The combination of cherry, oreo and brownie in cool, creamy custard has become one of my favorites and I wanted to find a way to put it into candy form–hence, this bark!  I was pleased with how it turned out although I think I’d do a few more cherries next time, but that’s just my preference.  It would be great for any holiday party if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen and it’s definitely perfect for gift giving.  Just put it in a festive cellophane bag and voila!  Perfect foodie gift.

Enjoy!

Chunky Cherry Oreo & Brownie Bark
 
Ingredients
  • 2.5 lbs. Dark Chocolate Candy Coating (such as Ghirardelli or Wilton)
  • ¾ lb. White Chocolate Candy Coating (such as Ghirardelli or Wilton)
  • 1, 9x9 pan of Brownies (I used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix and added a teaspoon of vanilla), cut into 1" sqaures
  • 5 c. Oreos (20 cookies), roughly crushed
  • 1 c. Dried Cherries
Instructions
  1. Melt both the dark and white chocolate candy coating (in separate bowls) in the microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring between each. Line your kitchen counter with a large piece of foil. In a large bowl, place the brownie chunks and gently stir in the melted dark chocolate candy coating. Be very careful to not break up the chunks of brownie as you stir. Quickly spread the brownies and chocolate onto the foil and immediately top with the crushed brownies and gently press them into the brownie/chocolate layer. Immediately drizzle with the melted white chocolate candy coating and sprinkle with the dried cherries. Let cool completely until chocolate is hard. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife and store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes about 3 lbs of candy.

 

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Crispy Nutella Candy

I know, I know.  Nutella has been SO done.  But believe it or not, I haven’t done many Nutella recipes on this blog.  As a matter of fact, I think the only one I have so far is for these Dark Chocolate Nutella Raspberry Cupcakes.  But there is a reason people love their Nutella recipes so much and it’s because, well, the stuff is DANG good.  I mean really, all you need is a spoon and the jar and you’re pretty much set.  But mix in into your favorite cookie, brownie or in this case Christmas candy, and you’ve got near dessert perfection.

This is another recipe from my baker-extraordinairre friend, Judy.  I will never forget the first Christmas party at my first “real job” after I got out of college.  She brought these, along with a few other goodies (which I can all recall distinctly and do in fact have the recipes for), and I immediately fell in love.  The original recipe calls for peanut butter so I decided this time to switch things up and use Nutella.  And ummm, holy cow, mother of mercy.  Good.  These are good.  Kind of amazing.  As I was shoving the mixture into my mouth…I mean, delicately taste testing a totally finished and dipped candy, I kept thinking they reminded me of a candy bar but I couldn’t figure out which one.  And then it hit me–Ferrero Rocher!  YUM.

These babies are seriously the easiest candy I have yet to make this holiday season.  It’s all done in one bowl and you don’t even have to use your stove.  Love it.

Enjoy!

Crispy Nutella Candy
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Dry Milk
  • 1 c. Quick Oats
  • 1 c. Rice Krispie Cereal
  • 1 c., plus 2 T. Nutella
  • ½ c. Honey (try to use a honey that is mild in flavor, otherwise it will overwhelm the Nutella a bit)
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 lb. Dark Chocolate Candy Coating Discs (Wilton or Ghirardelli brand is best)
  • White Chocolate Candy Coating for drizzle (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix dry milk, oats, cereal, nutella, honey and vanilla. It will be a very thick mixture. Form into 1½" balls and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you melt the dark chocolate candy coating. Dip each ball in the dark chocolate candy coating and let dry completely. Decorate with white chocolate, white/red non-pareils or other decor.
Notes
Makes 40, 1½" balls.

 

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Eggnog vs. Eggnog

Little fact about me: I LOVE eggnog.  Love it.  Usually can’t keep it in my house because I will drink it…and by “it” I mean half a gallon in one sitting.  Luckily, my husband also loves eggnog.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do if he was an eggnog hater.  You know, one of those people that have no taste for the finer things in life–such as eggnog.  Ok, ok, I’m being a little melodramatic about the haters…ya’ll aren’t that bad.  And you have to have good taste because you’re on this blog!  But I really have to question your disdain for the sweet, creamy, delicately spiced liquid wonderfulness (umm, yeah, that’s totally a word) that is eggonog.  I’ve thought about what could make someone hate this delicious holiday drink and I can only come to one conclusion:  the name.  Think about it.  Eggnog.  EGGnog??  How appetizing does that sound, really?  Not much.  But it says little about the yumminess of this drink.  I’m fairly certain if someone tried rebranding it and naming it something along the lines of “Heavenly Melted Ice Cream Nirvana” or something, it would sell like never before.  Because that’s honestly what it tastes like!!  At least to me.  And that is why I love it so.  I can only hope that more people will come to love it as I do.

Anyway.

I did a little taste test.  This is totally unofficial.  I’m no expert.  I just love eggnog.  And doing a taste-test in the name of “research” for this blog, was a totally valid excuse to buy way more eggnog than I need in one lifetime, let alone the same day.  Man I have a hard job!

So I tried four different kinds.  It would have been five, but my absolute favorite brand, So Delicious Coconut Milk Eggnog, sold at our local health food store, hadn’t hit the shelves yet.  That stuff is creamy, thick, has a very slight hint of coconut and is dairy-free, which is what we do in our house (with the exception of this little experiment…obviously).  It’s amazing.  Anyway, I chose Hiland which is the brand both Jeremy and I grew up on, Silk Soymilk Nog they sell at Wal-Mart, Organic Valley from our local health food store and Anderson Erickson from Hy-Vee, which is a brand I’d never heard of until my friend Joel mentioned it.

I’ll try not to bore you with all the delicious details and be as succinct as possible.  Let’s start with the least favorite, Silk Soymilk Nog.

Silk Soymilk Nog:  I actually bought this before I’d purchased any of the others and had been drinking it for awhile thinking it was a suitable substitute.  That was until I put it in this taste test.  Against the others it had a watery/skim milk consistency and a very noticeable nutty/soy undertones.  It will do if you’re dairy-free and need a fix but against the others, it was a big loser.

Anderson Erickson:  This was number three (sorry Joel), which doesn’t mean it was bad it just had to go somewhere in the ranking.  It was VERY SWEET, had no nutmeg fragrance and you couldn’t even really taste the spices, which I happen to love.  It was very thick and creamy and almost had a caramel taste to it.  Jeremy and I decided that it did, in fact, taste like melted ice cream!  Good, but too sweet for us.

Organic Valley:  This stuff was very good and not as thick and heavy as the others.  It had a more “pure” taste to it and you could smell and taste the spices.  I thought the flavors and sweetness were balanced nicely.  We both really liked this one.

Hiland Dairy:  This was our absolute favorite.  It was thick and creamy, not too overly sweet and had the perfect amount of spices/nutmeg.  We loved this one.  Just as we have loved it for all our lives since we were wee little ones.  Which could have something to do with why it ended up being number one!  Yay for childhood favorites! (Oh and p.s. Hiland had the least amount of calories, fat AND sugar BY FAR out of the top three!  Sweet!)

So, that’s my unprofessional, totally non-expert take on those four eggnogs.  And I’m dying to know…what is your favorite brand???  Do you even like eggnog?  Don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you don’t, promise. 😉

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Eggnog Caramel Sauce

The other day I was making caramels.  Well, I thought I was making caramels.  I have this recipe for amazing, chewy caramels that I’ve made for years and decided to try and switch things up and make them EGGNOG caramels.  As the buttery, sugary mixture boiled and did its thing, I thought to myself, “Yeah…these are going to be awesome.” The scent of eggnog and caramelized sugar smelled divine and I could not wait to sink my teeth into one of these babies.

Imagine my shock the next day when I went to check on the caramels and ummm, they weren’t quite as firm as they should be.  As a matter of fact, the weren’t firm AT ALL.  Bummer.  But then I had a thought!  Eggnog Caramel Sauce?!  Heck yes!  What I thought was a disaster actually turned out to be the most wonderful, delicious thing ever!  We warmed our sauce in the microwave for about 10 seconds and drizzled it over vanilla ice cream and our taste buds were immediately transported to total nirvana.  To be honest, I rarely have mistakes that actually turn out for the better and this was totally an exception.  The flavors of caramel and eggnog in this sauce are just incredible.  Perfect for gift giving.  Or just keep it all to yourself.  Like we’re doing.  Hah.

Enjoy!

P.S. This sauce would pretty much be AMAZING over this Gingerbread Loaf Cake.  Trust me on this one.

Eggnog Caramel Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Sugar
  • 1 c. Salted Butter
  • ½ c. Dark Corn Syrup
  • ½ c. Lyle's Golden Syrup (or Light Corn Syrup)
  • 2 c. Eggnog
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ t. Nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Bring sugar, butter, dark corn syrup and light corn syrup to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes without stirring. Stir in eggnog, turn heat to medium and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 10 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 245 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and nutmeg and pour into a bowl to cool. Once cooled, pour into jars and store in the refrigerator.
Notes
Makes 3 cups of caramel sauce or 3, half-pint jars.

 

 

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Fresh Orange Italian Cream Cake

Hey friends.  I’ve got a cake recipe for you today.  Not just any cake recipe.  Fresh Orange Italian Cream Cake.  This cake…oh my goodness, where do I start?  I am such a sucker for layer cakes.  Especially ones with homemade orange marmalade in between the layers.  Such as this one.

Luckily, my friend Shawna, who happens to have this fantastic gourmet cooking club that I’m a part of, is also a lover of layer cakes.  And we happened to have cooking club this past weekend.  So when I saw this cake from Southern Living show up in my email a couple of weeks ago, I immediately knew what I’d be taking.  And I won’t lie, on our way to cooking club I was having my doubts and second guessing my choice of cake.  I kind of started thinking maybe I should have done something with chocolate and peppermint (one of my all time favorite combos) or something a little more holiday-ish.  But my doubts were all put to rest after cutting into this baby.  Everyone loved it!  I have to admit, this is a GOOD cake.  The yellow cake is so moist and delicious with coconut mixed in and the orange marmalade and pecan cream cheese frosting just make the whole thing an amazing combination of flavors and textures.

A couple of notes about the cake.  You’ll want to make it in stages since it has a few components.  It’s nothing complicated, just plan ahead.  I made the cake layers one day and froze them.  One trick I learned for cake is that after it has baked, let it cool off for about 5 minutes, wrap it tightly in a couple of layers of foil and then put it in the freezer.  It traps the moisture and makes the cake SUPER moist and it only takes a couple of hours on the kitchen counter for it to defrost.  Next day I made the orange marmalade and then a couple days later I made the glazed pecans and frosting and put the whole thing together.

All in all, this was an absolutely divine cake.  Perfect for holiday parties and festivities.  Everyone will rave!

Enjoy!

Fresh Orange Italian Cream Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ½ c. Shortening
  • 2 c. Sugar
  • 5 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Whole Milk (or buttermilk)
  • 1 c. Sweetened Flaked Coconut
  • 2 T. Grated Orange Rind
Orange Marmalade
  • 1 c. Sugar
  • ¼ c. Cornstarch
  • 2 c. Fresh Orange Juice (I used 10 large oranges to get two cups of juice)
  • 3 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ c. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 T. Granted Orange Rind
Glazed Pecans
  • 1½ c. Pecan Halves
  • ⅓ c. Light Corn Syrup (I used Lyle's Golden Syrup)
Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 c. Pecans, toasted and choppped
  • ½ c. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, cold
  • ¼ c. Shortening
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
Garnish
  • ⅓ c. Flaked Sweetened Coconut, toasted
Instructions
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2, 9-inch round pans and line with parchment paper.
  2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until blended.
  3. Whisk together flour, soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture alternately with milk, begginging and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in one cup flaked coconut and grated orange rind.
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Divide batter evenly between the two pans.
  5. Bake for 25-28 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks or remove from pans, wrap in foil and store in the freezer until ready to use.
For the Orange Marmalade
  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucepan; gradully whisk in fresh orange juice. Whisk in lightly beaten eggs. Bring to a boil (5 to 6 minutes) over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and grated orange rind. If the mixture ends up with pieces of cook egged in it (mine did) simply push it through a very fine mesh sieve with the back of a large spoon in to a bowl. Cover, placing plastic wrap directly on curd and chill for at least 8 hours or until ready to use.
For the Glazed Pecans
  1. Combine pecan halves and corn syrup, stirring to coat pecans. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange pecan halves in an even layer in pan.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Stir using a rubber spatula and bake 3 minutes more. Remove from oven and arrange in an even layer on another piece of foil and let cool completely.
For the Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Cream Butter, shortening and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed until creamy and well blended. Stir in pecans.
To Assemble
  1. Split cake layer in half horizontally. Place a layer on a plate or cake stand and spread with a thin layer of frosting and then marmalade. Top with a cake layer. Spread with another thin layer of frosting and marmalade. Top with third cake layer and spread again with frosting and marmalade. Top with final cake layer and frost sides and top of cake with the remaining pecan cream cheese frosting. Garnish with glazed pecans and toasted coconut. Serve with remaining orange marmalade.
Notes
Serves 18.

 

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Dark Chocolate Chunk Toffee Bars

As mentioned in my post yesterday, I have a great healthy recipe to share with you guys this morning!  I was REALLY needing a healthy sweet treat for our house and this recipe from Oh She Glows seemed perfect.  I did make a few changes just because I didn’t have the exact things she used but they still turned out perfect, in my opinion.  They do indeed taste a little toffee-like although I think I’d omit the cinnamon next time to let the toffee flavor come through more.  These are totally wholesome, whole-grain, low-sugar (NOT refined sugar) and like a chewy granola bar.  I definitely thought they were better after they had sat overnight, so give them a little time to come to their full potential!  Hope you like them as much as we do!

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Toffee Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Thick Cut Oats
  • ¼ c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 T. Chia Seeds
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon (or omit completely)
  • ½ t. Sea Salt (I use pink Himalayan)
  • 1 c. Almonds, chopped and toasted
  • ½ c. Agave
  • 2 T. Butter (I used whipped organic)
  • ¼ c. Sucanat
  • ⅓ c. Almond Butter (I use homemade so the only ingredient is almonds)
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 T. Dark Chocolate Chunks or Chips (I prefer Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, salt and almonds.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the agave, butter, sucanat, almond butter and vanilla, Microwave on high for 45 seconds and stir until smooth.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Add the egg and stir until everything is combined. Scoop into the pan and spread out the mixture.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack and cut into squares.
Notes
Makes 16 squares.

 

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Healthy Sweet Treats

As of right now, I’m in recovery stage from Thanksgiving eatings.  Is anybody else with me?  Lots of fruits, veggies, lean meat and trying desperately to stay away from sweets…at least for the moment.  But doesn’t it just seem like you are inundated from Thanksgiving to Christmas (ok, more like Easter) with candy and sweet stuff EVERYWHERE?!  At the office, church, cookie exchanges, holiday parties, special holiday treats from local bakeries and ice cream shops…I mean, you’ve only got one month to stuff your face with all these limited time, seasonal treats!!!!   No wonder people gain on average 10 pounds from November to December.  Sheesh.

I’ve found the best defense is to have a plan of action!  I think ahead about what I REALLY want to indulge in and what I can live without.  It seems that we think since something is laying out on the kitchen table in the breakroom at work, we might as well eat it, even if it’s really not that good.  Save your calories for the things that are AMAZING, not just o.k.  I also like to keep fruits and healthy baked treats on hand at our house.  That way we already have something to grab in case the sweet tooth kicks in or we want to go out and get that limited-time dark chocolate candy cane shake.  Tomorrow morning I’m going to share a recipe for healthy Dark Chocolate Chunk Toffee Bars but for now I thought I’d share some of my favorite healthy treats I’ve done over the past few months. These are all great options and totally delicious.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Quinoa Trail Mix Bars

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Java Mocha Protein Balls

Lightened Up Gluten-Free Brownies

No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats

No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Strawberry Almond Butter Soup

Whole Grain Strawberry Newtons

 

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Candy Cane Mocha Fudge Truffles

Ah, Christmas candy, my favorite kind of Christmas indulgence.  I LOVE homemade Christmas candy.  Luckily I am surrounded by family that knows a thing or two about making it.  My mom makes homemade fudge like no one else, my grandparent’s peanut brittle is THE BEST and my aunt Theresa makes divinity that is out of this world.  I guess you could say that candy making runs in my blood!  Hence my love for homemade marshmallows, chocolate covered cherries, toffee, truffles…so many divine options.

For Thanksgiving I had FOUR different kinds of truffles that I wanted to make but between making three different pies, cherry cheesecake and brownies, plus a myriad of non-dessert food, I only got around to making one.  Sigh.  Just not enough hours for all the baking and cooking.  But it’s ok because the truffles were scrumptious!  They’re a combination of coffee, peppermint and dark chocolate.  It’s all mixed up with a touch of cream cheese which makes the center of the truffle almost cheesecake-like!  So good.

Oh and yes, I WILL be making those other truffles and sharing the recipes, don’t you worry.

Enjoy!

Candy Cane Mocha Fudge Truffles
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Bittersweet or Dark Chocolate Chips (I prefer the Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet)
  • ½ c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3 T. Instant Coffee
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 lb. Dark Chocolate Candy Coating
  • 4 Candy Canes, crushed
Instructions
  1. Place chocolate chips in a small bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream just until it begins to boil. Quickly stir in the instant coffee until it has dissolved and pour over the chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Let cool until it is barely warm. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and slowly beat in the chocolate ganache mixture. Place mixture in the refrigerator until stiff, about one hour.
  2. With a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out 1½" mounds onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate candy coating in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each, until completely smooth. Using the palm of your hands, shape the truffle mounds into balls and dip in the melted candy coating. Top immediately with crushed candy canes. Serve immediately or store in a single layer in an air-tight container.

 

 

 

 

 

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Holiday Cookies

Last year I went to my first ever Christmas cookie exchange and it was so, so fun!  In case you have never been to one, you make enough of a cookie or candy so that everyone gets one of everything (plus the recipe).  You swap sweets, snack on holiday goodies and leave with enough sugar to give you heart palpitations for days.  Good times.  And totally worth the sugar overload.

I loved trying everyone’s homemade creations and am so looking forward to doing the exchange again this year.  I’ve already started researching recipes and found so many that I want to try.  If you have a cookie exchange you’re going to, take a second and browse these scrumptious cookie and bar recipes!

Honey Walnut Bar

Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars

 Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

Cranberry-Honey Spice Pinwheel Cookies

Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers

Chocolaty Melting Snowmen

Holiday 7-Layer Bars

Chocolaty Caramel-Nut S’mores Bars

Black-and-White Coconut Macaroons

Almond-Oat Lace Cookies

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanuts and Pretzels

Cherry Rum Ribbons

White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

 Russian Tea Cakes

 

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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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