Spiced Pear Butter

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

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

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

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

 

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Butterfinger Fudge

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

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

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

 

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Cupcake Themed Halloween

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

Cupcake Halloween Costume from Pottery Barn

Chiasso Cupcake Doormat

Johnny Cupcakes Hello Kitty Tote Bag

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Best Butterscotch Cookies Ever

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

 

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Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

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

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

Enjoy!

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

 

 

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Pumpkin and More Pumpkin

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

Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treats

Pumpkin Butter

Mini Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecakes

Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Pretzels

Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Mini Pumpkin Doughnuts with Rum-Cider Glaze

Pumpkin Candy Cups

Pumpkin Scones

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

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Love is Sweet

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

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

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

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

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

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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

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

Enjoy!

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

 

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Apple Snickers Trifle

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

 

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Sugarjones in Rockford, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caramel Apple Sandwich Cookies

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

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

Enjoy!

Original recipe by Taste of Home.

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

 

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Hoosier Mama Pie Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

Ina Garten does not disappoint.  I honestly cannot think of one recipe (dessert recipe, of course) that I have ever made of hers that hasn’t turned out absolutely fabulous.  I mean the woman just knows her sweets.

And I’m happy to say that the same can be said for these Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars.  Think of the most amazing peanut butter cookie you have ever had, layered in bar form with sweet, gooey jam in the middle and you get these bars.  They are rich and thick and completely indulgent.  And they definitely require a HUGE glass of milk.  I mean HUGE.  They come together in a snap and bake up fast but it’s important to let them cool completely, otherwise they will not hold their shape when cut.  Just a helpful tip from the first time I ever made them.

I’m thinking these are the perfect school lunch treat for kids!  Or husbands even.  Or…is that the same thing?? 😉

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 c. Creamy Peanut Butter (I like Peter Pan)
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Powder
  • 1½ t. Salt
  • 2 c. Strawberry Jam (or other kind)
  • ½ c. Salted Peanuts
  • 1 c. Peanut Butter Chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed add the eggs, one at a time, thoroughly incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
  4. Spread ⅔ of the dough into the pan. Spread the jam evenly over the dough but not all the way to the edges as the jam will burn slightly if it's touching the pan. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if it doesn't quite cover all the jam; the dough will spread as it bakes. Spinkle with peanuts and peanut butter chips and press down gently into the dough.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely and cut into squares.
Notes
Makes 18 bars.

 

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Bake a Cake Inside an Orange

Did you know you could bake a cake inside an orange?!  Over a campfire, no less?!?!  I wouldn’t have believed it myself but according to this little tidbit on lifehacker.com it’s a REAL THING.  All you need is cake batter, an orange, some foil and an open flame and voila!  Cake!  I happen to love chocolate and orange combos so I will totally be trying this in the near future!  See the full instructions here.

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The Chocolatier, Inc.

A couple of weeks ago Jeremy and I went on a little getaway to Illinois.  Illinois?  Yes, Illinois.  A friend of ours who lives in Rockford, IL was getting married the same week of our anniversary so we thought we’d make a it little anniversary celebration trip too.  We actually stayed in Bloomington, IL the first couple of days of our trip at a little B&B called the Vrooman Mansion (see pic above).  Except there is nothing little about this place…it has 18 rooms, a massive outdoor patio, several parlors and is just gorgeous!  I highly recommend this place if you are travelling through Illinois.  Oh, and the breakfast is divine!

We did lots of antiquating and some other mansion tours (one being the David Davis Mansion–who knew there were so many in Illinois?) and even hit up a winery that had live music one night.  Oh, and found a couple of totally fabulous restaurants.  We LOVED every minute in Bloomington.

Of course part of our trek through Illinois included some carefully researched sweet stops.  The first being this very unassuming chocolate shop in Bloomington, The Chocolatier, Inc.  It’s located in their downtown area and when we drove up I kind of thought it didn’t look too legit.  The outside was meh and inside there were ZERO frills…we’re talking bakery cases for the chocolates and then jars of bulk candy.  No gimmicks, no aesthetic niceties…nothing.

But guess what?  I was WRONG.  This place was more then legit.  It was crazy good.  I didn’t get any of the bulk candy, because I wanted to focus on the chocolate that was made there.  I can honestly say the chocolates at this place were perhaps the best I have ever had.  I’m talking melt in your mouth, nothing artificial, amazing, deliciousness.

Here’s what we got.  It was so hard to choose but I narrowed it down to six.  A Coffee Buttercream, Chocolate Covered Marshmallow, Marzipan Truffle, Amaretto Truffle, a Peanut Butter Cup and a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.

First of all, none of these were bad.  They were all delicious.  But of course we had to rank our favorites.  The Coffee Buttercream came in last only because I thought it could have used a tad more coffee flavor.  Next, was the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow which was actually really, really good and I have never found a homemade marshmallow I like better than mine (sorry, it’s true!).   After that the Marzipan came in fourth, only because the top three were soooo good.  So third was the Amaretto Truffle…amazing amaretto flavored ganache covered with a milk chocolate shell.  Yum.

Second was the Peanut Butter Cup.  Oh my gosh…I’ve always loved my homemade peanut butter balls but I thought this thing was way better.  So good.

And lastly the star of the show was the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.  Holy cow.  Amazing dark chocolate ganache middle infused with raspberry puree and covered in a dark chocolate shell.  It. Was. Divine.  Not to mention gorgeous.

So yeah.  This place is the real deal when it comes to chocolate.  Definitely go if you are ever there.  Our next stop was in Chicago at a teeny, tiny pie place…can’t wait to share with you next week!

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Spiced Granola

Up until recently I have bought Jeremy granola every week for I don’t even know how long.  I buy a very specific organic brand that is healthy and he likes it so even though it’s a little pricey, I don’t mind pay a little extra for the health benefits.  I’ve even made my own granola before but he really likes this specific kind so we’ve always stuck with it.  Until now.

That’s right, I managed to find a granola recipe that BEATS THE CRAP out of the store-bought granola.  Yesssssss.  Not only does he LOVE it, it is even healthier than the organic stuff and, oh yeah, cheaper.  The original recipe is here and yes, I took a little liberty and changed some things (shocker, I know).  The combination of cinnamon and almond flavor totally works in this recipe and it turns so crunchy after it has cooled.  It’s honestly hard to stay out of it.  I like to mix some Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes into mine just to give it that cereal aspect so feel free to add or not add…totally up to you.  You could throw in nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.  Whatever sounds good at the moment!

Enjoy!

Spiced Granola
 
Ingredients
Dry
  • 1 c. Thick Rolled Oats (if you don't have access to rye or red wheat flakes, just use all thick rolled oats)
  • 1½ c. Rye Flakes
  • 1½ c. Red Wheat Flakes
  • ½ c. 7-Grain Cereal (can be found in bulk section of health food store or substitute uncooked millet)
  • 2 T. Chia Seeds
  • ½ c. Sucanat
  • 1¼ t. Sea Salt (I prefer pink himalayan)
  • 1½ t. Cinnamon
Wet
  • ⅓ c. Safflower Oil
  • ¼ c. Light Agave
  • ¼ c. Maple Agave
  • ⅓ c. plus 1 T. Raw Almond Butter
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 t. Almond Extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, stir together all wet ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir to combine. It will seem dry at first but keep stirring and it will all get coated.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two pans and spread in an even layer.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring, rotating pans and switching racks (if your oven cooks unevenly, like mine does) halfway through. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 5-6 cups.

 

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Chocolate S’mores Muffins

 

I am so, so, SO excited to introduce the very first fall recipe for 2012 on Desserted Planet–Chocolate S’mores Muffins!!  Yes, I know it’s still August but here in Missouri the temperatures have drastically plunged and we’ve been seeing highs in the 70’s and low 80’s and people are more than ready to break out their scarves and throw some chili on the stove.  Bring on fall!  If only winter didn’t come after it…oh well.

Anyways, back to these amazing muffins.  A couple of weeks ago Jeremy and I went camping with some other couples and all their cute kiddos.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of camping.  I didn’t grow  up camping so I think that is part of the problem.  I just don’t see how people enjoy being dirty and sweaty and sleeping on the ground and doing their business behind a tree…I honestly just don’t get it!  However, this camping trip was a little different so I wasn’t quite a reluctant to go…but reluctant nonetheless.  Everyone had a camper, including Jeremy’s brother and his wife so we had somewhere to sleep that was not that ground and it was even air-conditioned!  It also meant we had a bathroom.  Ok, I could do that.

So after agreeing to go, I began to think about what we should bring to eat.  Since we’d only be there overnight and the next morning, I wanted something sweet and appropriate for breakfast.  Of course!  S’mores!  In muffins!  Brilliant.  And yes, the recipes were already out there.  Like this one from Elle’s New England Kitchen.  It was pretty much a perfect recipe as is, but not very sweet so I added a bit of extra sugar and doubled the recipe, as the original stated that it only made twelve.  They were a BIG hit and pretty much like eating a chocolatey, marshmallow studded cupcake for breakfast.  Yes, cupcake.  But we didn’t call them that…they are MUFFINS.  And that makes them totally appropriate for breakfast.  But if you want to eat one for dessert, that’d be ok too…

Enjoy!

Chocolate S'mores Muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 T. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Brown Sugar
  • ½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 2 c. Whole Milk
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. Dark Chocolate Chips, divided
  • 3-4 c. Mini Marshmallows
  • 12 Whole Graham Cracker Sheets, broken into chunks but not too small (for a total of 3 cups graham cracker pieces, with one cup reserved for topping muffins)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 32 muffin cups in a muffin pan.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt and both sugars. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir the wet mixture into the dry and gently fold until everything is incorporated. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips, 2 cups mini marshmallows and 2 cups graham cracker pieces.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cups. Top each muffin with the remaining chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers. Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. After baking, cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes and then run a knife around the edges, remove the muffins from the pan and continue cooling completely on the rack. Or eat warm!
Notes
VERY IMPORTANT: You MUST remove the muffins from the pan after 5 minutes or they will NOT come out. Also, muffin liners will NOT work with these muffins--they will stick to the liners and be a mess.

 

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Treetop Friends Baby Shower

A couple of weekends ago I had the extreme joy of hosting my little sister’s baby shower.  I am beyond thrilled that she is having a baby…it’s just her and I in our family and she is the first to have a baby/grandbaby, so this is pretty exciting for us and our parents!  In just a little less than a month we’ll be welcoming baby Micah into the world and you can bet he will be spoiled to death.  And I will probably spoil him the most!  At least I’m gonna try.  Haha.

The shower was a brunch and held at my parent’s church.  We did a delicious breakfast casserole and fresh fruit, along with a dessert table that I planned months ago.  It all came together perfectly and everyone had a great time.  So wonderful having the opportunity to bless the parents-to-be.  Great memories.

The shower was themed after the nursery, which is going to be Treetop Friends.  Think trees, bird’s nests, owls, etc…

Here is the AMAZINGLY detailed cake by Celebrations by Sonja.  It seriously looked just like the invitation.  This is all buttercream, no fondant and I can honestly say her cakes not only look fabulous but are probably some of the best tasting I have every had.

Now for the dessert table…

“Treeknot” Mini Cinnamon Rolls

 A close-up of all the yumminess.

The macaroon “bird’s nests” were delicious and it was the first time I’d ever made them.  I got the recipe here and just tweaked a little by omitting the Nutella, adding some almond extract and filling them with blueberries and drizzling melted white chocolate over the top.  Yum.

Such a fabulous time…now we wait for baby Micah to make his grand entrance!

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Pies and Purpose: Two Very Exciting Announcements!

I have two VERY exciting announcements to make.  First, I am starting a new venture in the baking world:  pies!  I recently discovered my love of making pies…and anyone who knows me, knows that I am OBSESSED.  It’s all I can think about, talk about and it’s all I want to make!  My mind is going crazy with possibilities and different varieties.  I am also focusing on using ingredients that are all-natural, local and totally fresh.  As I have told my husband, I want to be the Jeni’s (of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams) of the pie making world.  I admire her vision and the quality of her product so much.  It’s totally a difference you can taste and as cliche as that sounds, it’s true!  And I want it to be true for my pies.

Of course, I’ll still be making a variety of desserts for my blog but will be putting full-time effort into my new pie business, Sweet Pies by Desserted Planet.  I’ll have more information such as menu and pricing in the near future, but to place an order, I can be contacted via email at sarah@dessertedplanet.com.  Oh and check out my amazing new logo, courtesy of my very talented husband!  I absolutely love it.

My second huge announcement is my participation in an awesome event called Tux for Chucks.  This black tie affair is a dinner and auction fundraiser for my aunt’s amazing organization called One Sole Purpose, a group dedicated to putting brand new shoes on the feet of school kids who cannot afford them.  Please go to their website and check out their information under “About Us” and please consider donating to them today (which you can conveniently do online!).

As for my involvement in the Tux for Chucks event here in Springfield, MO, I will not only be donating pie for dessert that night, but I will also be donating a pie to be auctioned off, along with a “Pie of the Month” gift card!  I am so honored to be a part of this event!  If you live in the area, consider attending and getting in on all the action.  It will be a fabulous night with good food, dancing and the best part is, it’s for a wonderful cause!

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