Cupcake Wars Watch Party!

Robyn and I--ready for the show!

One of the best things about being on Cupcake Wars??  The huge, insanely fun watch party we got to throw!  Of course we HAD to make cupcakes for everyone to eat while watching so we made three of the four kinds of cupcakes that we made on the show (Red Velvet, Take 5 and Bananas Foster).  And we did not make just enough for everyone to have one measly little cupcake…no, no we made 750 cupcakes…enough for every person there to have one of EACH cupcake.  Insane!

Here are some fun photos from the night…

Frosting the Bananas Foster with that AMAZING brown sugar buttercream.
The Take 5 Cupcake--chocolate cake, salted caramel filling, peanut butter buttercream, topped with pretzels, peanuts and chocolate bark! The clear favorite of the night.
Doesn't she just look so cute and innocent?? Don't be fooled! Caught her red-handed (pawed?) chowing down on a box of Red Velvet cupcakes!
The BIG cupcake display!
More cupcakes!
Crammed into the living room....
...and the bedroom...and a few other rooms. Hah!
Hmmm, which one (or five) do I want???
The big, blow-up outside screen didn't quite work out. There was too much sunlight to see the screen! Bummer. 🙁
Another angle of the living room.
There we are!! Go Red's Cupcakes!

All in all, I think Red’s Cupcakes definitely brought it and yeah, TOTALLY should have won.  But hey, you can’t win ’em all and in the end I think our cupcakes were beautiful, our display was amazing and we gave it our all so we’re proud of what we did!  Robyn will forever reign as Cupcake Goddess and I, the Candy Queen!!  Hah!

Thanks to everyone who watched and cheered us on and for all your support!!  Love and appreciate each and every one of you!

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The Best of Brunch for Father’s Day

Photo Credit: Foodbeast.com

Brunch, it’s what every dad wants.  Trust me on this.  Sure, when you ask him what he wants for Father’s Day he’ll throw out the usual grilling/golfing/fishing ideas, but what do men REALLY want??  Food.  Homemade, from scratch, fill-your-belly FOOD.

Now I know that typically the word “brunch” invokes thoughts of girly tea rooms and fine china and quiche and ya know, things that don’t sound too manly.  But throw in a couple meats (bacon, sausage, etc) and some kind of breakfast casserole (one with eggs and hashbrowns and loads of cheese and absolutely NO vegetables…unless it’s jalapenos..those are manly) and brunch is no longer just for the ladies.

And I’m sorry, but it just wouldn’t be brunch without something sweet.  Luckily, I have a few recipes that would fit the bill for any dad’s mid-morning sweet tooth.  Like these Mini Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins.

Or maybe he’s a health nut…this Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola is uber-healthy and most importantly delicious.  Great plain, with milk or over greek yogurt with fresh berries.  Yum.

For the chocoholic, these Triple Chocolate Muffins will totally give him his fix.

Another healthy AND gluten-free option–Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins.

Lastly, Berry Bread Pudding (minus the ice cream..I mean, this IS breakfast after all).  My personal favorite.

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.  Pick one (or two!) and get to baking!

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Dad’s Like Cupcakes Too

And cookies.  And cake.  And brownies.  And…well, you get the idea.  Sometimes dad’s even like to get in the kitchen and show-off their baking skills!  If your dad falls into any of these categories, may I suggest some of the following gifts and ideas, perfect for Father’s Day?

I think every dessert-loving dad should own this shirt.  Ok, scratch that–every REAL MAN should own this shirt.

Real Men Can Bake apron.  Says it all.

These beer themed sugar cookies are soooo cute.  Oh, maybe cute is the wrong word…probably not very manly.  Oh well.

He likes pancakes?  And bacon?  And beer?  No problem–he can have all three for breakfast!  Nothing says “love ya, dad” like Beer and Bacon Pancakes.

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Chocolate Stout and Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cupcakes

I’ve got your dessert for Father’s Day.  Chocolate Stout and Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cupcakes.  Also known as, the manliest of manly cupcakes in the history of mankind.  Ok, at least that’s MY take on them.  And I think my husband would agree also.  And any other man that has the extreme pleasure of tasting one of these amazing cupcakes.  They combine what I understand to be essential manly ingredients such as peanuts, pretzels and beer and turn a cupcake into something a REAL man is not ashamed to eat.  ‘Cause really…cupcakes are cute!  And what man eats something cute??  I know of none.

I will be honest–you could just stop with the chocolate stout cake.  The cake recipe makes a little more batter than is needed for the cupcakes so I ended up having five cupcakes that were only chocolate cake and uuummmm, yeah…AH-mazing.  I topped one with some simple homemade whipped cream and it was out of this world.  Just an idea if you don’t want to bother with the peanut butter cheesecake.  But may I suggest you bother??  Because it really is worth it.  The combination of the whipped chocolate ganache buttercream, chocolate stout cake and creamy peanut butter cheesecake is just out of this world.

Really, truly the PERFECT treat for any dad on Father’s Day.  Make them.  You will automatically become his favorite child.  Promise.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe adapted from Epicurious 

Chocolate Stout and Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cupcakes
 
Ingredients
Chocolate Stout Cake
  • ¾ c. Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 T. Instant Coffee Granules dissolved in ¼ c. Warm Water
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
  • ¾ c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 c. White Sugar
  • 1½ t. Baking Soda
  • ¾ t. Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c., plus 2 T. Sour Cream
Peanut Butter Cheesecake
  • 1 lb. (2, 8 oz. pkgs) Cream Cheese, softened
  • ¾ c. Firmly Packed, Light Brown Sugar
  • ½ c. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • ¼ c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1½ T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Large Eggs, room temperature
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Buttercream
  • 1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1½ c. Bittersweet/Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Sticks Unsalted Butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened
  • ½ c. Crushed Pretzels
  • ½ c. Chopped, Dry-Roasted Peanuts
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 35 regular size muffin tins with cupcake liners.
For the Chocolate Stout Cake
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring stout, coffee and butter to a simmer. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla and sour cream just until blended.
  3. Add stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined, taking care the stout mixture is cool enough that it will not cook the eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake
  1. Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the brown sugar, peanut butter, heavy whipping cream and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined.
  2. Place a scant 2 T. peanut butter cheesecake in the bottom of 30 of the muffin tins. Top with 2 T. of the chocolate stout cake. Bake for 20 minute or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For the Whipped Chocolate Ganache Buttercream
  1. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy whipping cream to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the chocolate chips and let set for one minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is smooth and melted completely. Stir in vanilla. Beat the chocolate mixture on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.
  2. Frost each cupcake with a VERY generous amount of frosting (I did a very thick layer of frosting) and top with crushed pretzels and chopped peanuts. Refrigerate overnight and let set out at least 5 minutes before eating.
Notes
Makes 30 chocolate stout and peanut butter cheesecake cupcakes and 5 chocolate stout cupcakes. Note: I made the chocolate stout mixture first, then the cheesecake and then finished the cake, just so the chocolate stout mixture had time to cool adequately.

 

 

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Let the Cupcake Wars Begin!

Hard to believe that when we did this little video soooo long ago, we’d find ourselves in the baking battle of our lives!  Be sure to watch what happens and cheer us on when we go whisk-to-whisk with three other teams on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars in one week on Sunday, June 17th at 7 p.m.! (Central Time)

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Chocolate Malt Brownies

Two things were in my mind when I came up with these brownies:  1. Father’s Day and 2. Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.  I actually made these a couple of weeks ago for a Memorial Day get together with my family and because I knew my parents would be making and bringing their famous homemade vanilla ice cream to the dinner, I wanted something super chocolate and decadent to go with it.  And I knew Father’s Day was around the corner and what dad doesn’t love chocolate??  I don’t know any.

I didn’t do much searching before I came across a recipe from Betty Crocker for Milk Chocolate Malt Brownies.  I rarely search for something online and choose the first thing that pops up but with these I thought, why not?  I didn’t want to spend hours looking for what I thought might be the “perfect” recipe and it’s Betty Crocker…how can you go wrong?  Of course I made a couple of minor changes and topped my brownies with a super decadent dark chocolate malt frosting.  If you’re thinking, “Wow Sarah, these sound rich and ridiculously good”…yes, you’d be right.  They are ridiculously good.  A little goes a long way, trust me.  And I will tell you the longer these set, the softer/better they become.  Although the malt balls on top do get chewy…but I kind of like ’em like that.

These are great for your dad, your uncle, grandpa, brother, nephew…whoever you know and love who also happens to be a dad!  Nothing says love and thanks like homemade brownies!

Chocolate Malt Brownies
 
Ingredients
Chocolate Malt Brownies
  • 12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 T. Instant Coffee Granules
  • ¾ c. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1¾ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ c. Malted Milk Powder (plain, NOT chocolate)
  • ½ t. Baking Powder
  • ¼ t. Salt
Chocolate Malt Frosting*
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 6 T. Whole Milk or Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1½ c. Malted Milk Powder (plain, NOT chocolate)
  • 5 oz. Whoppers or other Malted Milk Balls, coarsely chopped
Instructions
For the Brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips, butter and instant coffee granules in a large bowl in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugar and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, malted milk powder, baking powder and salt and gently fold into the chocolate mixture, just until there are no white streaks and the flour mixture is incorporated. Pour into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the Chocolate Malt Frosting
  1. Beat the butter at medium speed until smooth. Slowly beat 2 cups of the powdered sugar until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in 3 tablespoons of the milk or heavy whipping cream and the vanilla. Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar and milk/heavy whipping cream. Beat in the cocoa and malted milk powder at low speed and then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes until creamy and smooth. Spread frosting over cooled brownies and sprinkle with chopped Whoppers or other malted milk balls.
Notes
Makes 12-15 brownies. *This makes a very thick layer of frosting so if you'd prefer less, I'd suggest making half of the frosting recipe.

 

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Homemade Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry syrup reminds me of childhood.  When I was a kid, we’d go every year around the beginning of blueberry season to a blueberry patch about 20 minutes from our house and pick buckets and buckets of blueberries…and also eat quite a few in the process.  It was so fun.  Blueberry picking in the late spring and apple picking in fall are honestly some of my best memories from childhood.  Probably because they involved food I guess?!  Hah.

So after picking for a couple of hours we’d take our load of blueberries home and would freeze most of them right away but a few fresh ones would be reserved for homemade blueberry syrup.  My mom made THE BEST blueberry syrup and pancakes.  It was a reason to get up before noon on Saturday morning!  So when blueberries, blackberries and peaches started showing up at our local Farmer’s market recently, I definitely had her yummy blueberry syrup in mind.

Although I didn’t have my mom’s exact recipe, this turned out just like I remember hers.  Who knows, it might be the same one!  And can I tell you it could not be easier to make blueberry syrup?  Put ingredients in pot and heat.  That’s pretty much what it comes down to!  The use of orange juice may seem odd, but trust me, once it sits overnight, all the flavors meld together and you taste nothing but blueberry the next day!  It’s thick and quite sweet and just delicious over pancakes, waffles or crepes.  Will definitely be making it alot over the next few weeks!

Enjoy!

Homemade Blueberry Syrup
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
  • ¼ c. Water
  • ¾ c. Orange Juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  • ¾ c. White Sugar
  • ½ c. Cold Water
  • ⅓ c. Cornstarch
  • ½ t. Pure Vanilla Extract (or almond)
  • ⅛ t. Ground Cinnamon
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, ¼ c. water, orange juice and sugar. Stir gently and bring to a boil.
  2. In a cup or small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and ½ c. water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Gently stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries so as not to mash the berries. Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla or almond extract and the cinnamon. Cool completely and refrigerate over night. Serve warm over pancakes, waffles, etc.
Notes
Makes 2 cups of sauce

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Bakery Review – Sara Sara Cupcakes in Oklahoma City

Jeremy and I took a whirlwind trip to Oklahoma City this weekend.  The original purpose of the trip was to visit a little candy shop I have been eyeing online for what seems like forever called Pinkitzel.  From what I had seen of their website, this place seemed like a candy lovers dream and their decor was right up my alley–pink, white, black and Rococo everywhere!!  I was absolutely in love.  I had to go.  NOW.  So we decided to do it and after realizing it would take nearly 5 hours to make the drive, we booked a hotel.  Well, at least I thought we had booked a hotel. Jeremy surprised me by booking a B&B just outside of the Tulsa area.  It was so sweet…I think I’ll keep him. 😉

So knowing that we didn’t have to rush back and could just do whatever on Saturday, I immediately looked up other places around OKC we could get our sugar fix at.  I found a few cupcake places and narrowed it down to one and then also discovered another candy shop and a chocolate shop.  Fun!

We set out early (5:30!) Saturday morning and made it just in time for our first destination to open up.  Sara Sara Cupcakes is located in an old, historic party of Oklahoma City…and it is SO ADORABLE.  The house is quite aged, probably built in the early 1900’s which of course only adds to the charm.  They’ve painted the doors pink and the inside is totally white and clean/modern looking.  I loved it.

 As for the cupcakes, they were HUGE which made sense since they were $3.59 each.  I kind of freaked out about the price (however would I be able to try  my regular half dozen?!), but then I was informed that on that day they were 3 for $9…not bad!

So it was decision time…I hate this part!  I am HORRIBLE at making decisions, especially when it comes to dessert and I was struggling.  I can’t tell you how many times the employees at these places stare at me like I’m crazy while I stand in front of their bakery cases looking constipated and Jeremy is flitting around taking pictures.  Yeah…we probably look insane.  But oh well, all in the name of research!  So I managed to decide, with some input from Jeremy, and we came up with the following delightful cupcakes:  Coconut Cream, Crimson & Cream and Judge Joe Cannon.  I will say up front that these cupcakes are delicious and straightforward.  They were all homey and just good.  Nothing fancy or over the top.  Cake and frosting.  That being said, here’s the breakdown of each one.

Our least favorite was the Crimson & Cream.  And not because it was bad!  It definitely was not bad, it was just not our favorite.  The red velvet cake was the perfect buttermilk, red velvet cake…so moist and the cocoa was just barely noticeable.  Like red velvet should be.  Topped with a delicious, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting and chocolate shavings.  We liked it a lot.

Our next favorite was the Judge Joe Cannon, a banana cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting and chunks of Snickers.  I personally LOVED this banana cupcake because it was actually a super thick and dense banana bread.  Oh, it was soooo good.  However, the frosting was totally a let down…it was not a buttercream but more like a whipped topping that was greasy and slightly grainy.  I was really bummed about it because I loved the cake part so much.

And our absolute favorite was the Coconut Cream.   A delicious and moist chocolate cake topped with a milk chocolate frosting and yummy toasted coconut.  Loved it.

 

 Such a great start to the weekend!  If you are in the area, definitely pick up some cupcakes from them!

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No-Bake Peach Mimosa Cheesecake Bars

I am so, so, SO excited to share this recipe with you guys.  I was trying really hard to come up with a peach recipe that wasn’t a pie or crisp and man, was I having some serious inspiration issues on this one.  I wanted something cheesecake-y but NOT baked…the less oven time in the summer, the better, you know what I mean?  So I finally had an idea for something fresh and light and just overall yummy.  I can honestly say that these peach cheesecake bars are one of my favorite things I have ever made, if not THE favorite thing.  Yeah.  Good.  Really, really, really, good.

The recipe started with this brilliant idea I had for a boozy peach sauce and then it evolved from there to include a buttery, crumbly (but not too crumbly!) shortbread crust and thick, creamy no-bake cheesecake filling.  I have to say I could have stopped with the peach sauce…I literally was licking the spoon on this one.  It has the perfect combination of warm spices, peach and citrus.  Divine.  Add in the no-bake cheesecake factor and this is pretty much the perfect summer dessert.

I can tell I will be making LOTS of trips to my farmer’s market this summer. 🙂

No-Bake Peach Mimosa Cheesecake Bars
 
Ingredients
Champagne Soaked Peach Sauce
Shortbread Crust
  • 2¼ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ⅓ c., plus 2 T. Granulated Sugar
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1½ Sticks Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into small chunks
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans
Cheesecake Filling
  • 1, 8 oz. Pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 7 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 oz. Whipped Topping (i.e. Cool Whip)
Instructions
For the Peach Sauce
  1. Make recipe as instructed previously for Champagne Soaked Peach Sauce (recipe was posted on May 30th), letting the peaches drain on a wire rack onto a cookie sheet. Make the sauce as instructed.
For the Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, letting the foil hang over the edges to use as "handles". Grease the foil.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Work in the butter with a fork or your hands (I prefer to use my hands) until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until all ingredients are mixed together and then fold in the pecans.
  3. Gently press the mixture evenly unto the bottom of the foil-lined pan. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely. In the meantime, make the cheesecake filling.
For the Cheesecake Filling
  1. In an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Fold in the whipped topping.
To Assemble
  1. Using the foil "handles", left the completely cool crust from the pan and gently place the crust on a large platter/plate. Spread the cheesecake filling evenly over the crust. Place the crust and filling in the fridge or freezer (I used my freezer) for about 10-15 minutes in order to allow the cheesecake filling to firm up slightly.
  2. Remove from the fridge or freezer and top the dessert with the drained peach slices (as seen in the pictures) and cut into squares. Drizzle each square with peach sauce.
Notes
Makes 12-15 squares.

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Strawberry Chia Jam

Strawberry Pineapple, Peach and Strawberry Chia Jam

Have you heard about chia seeds yet?  They are an awesome super food that have so many health benefits, it’s truly unbelievable.  From lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol to helping surpress appetite, I am sold on these little seeds of goodness. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find all kinds of information on them.

The first time I ever saw them was in a water bottle that the cashier was drinking out of at my local health food store.  They looks like hundreds of little bubbles in her water.  She explained what they were and all the benefits and I was intrigued but didn’t purchase any until recently.  I love to put them in my oatmeal and my juicing concoction I make in the morning.  I’ve also had them baked into thin, crisp bars (recipe courtesy of my friend Joelle…I’ll be blogging it soon!)  and can now add jam to my list of uses for chia seeds!  The seeds actually absorb water like crazy so instead of using pectin to make the gel-like consistency of jam, these seeds do all the work!  It’s totally amazing and so, so tasty.  I just used honey to taste to sweeten this jam, so even though I list an exact measurement, feel free to use however much tastes good to you.

Gorgeous Strawberries

I made three different kinds, Strawberry, Strawberry Pineapple and Peach.  I think I like the Strawberry Pineapple the best.  Because I made three different kinds, I went ahead and froze two of them, so we’ll see how those hold up after they’re thawed out.  So far I’ve enjoyed it by the spoonful, on whole-grain sprouted bagels and plan to make some whole wheat waffles to try the spread on.  I am so excited about this stuff…healthy and good for you.  Enjoy!

Original recipe by Tosca Reno 

No-Sugar Strawberry Chia Jam
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Fresh Strawberries (or fruit of your choice), finely chopped and slightly mashed (you can also pulse the fruit in your food processor, which I'm going to try next time)
  • ¼ c. Water (I would use a little less if you have a significant amount of juice from your fruit)
  • 2 T. Chia Seeds
  • 3 T. Raw Honey (or agave, stevia or other natural sweetener)
Instructions
  1. Warm fruit and water in a bowl in the microwave for 1 minutes. Stir in chia seeds and honey and let set on the counter until cooled. Place a jar or other air-tight container and let gel overnight. Top whole grain bread, bagels, pancakes, waffles, etc with the jam...or just eat by the spoonful. 🙂
Notes
Makes 1 cup.

Strawberry Chia Jam on Whole Grain Sprouted Bagel

 

 

 

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Ice Cream Goodies

The days have been getting noticeably warmer lately…as in it feels like July and it’s only May kind of warmer.  And just about every day around 2:30 in the afternoon I start craving ice cream.  Ugh.  I then have to play referee between Good, Healthy, Angelic Sarah and Dessert Loving, Devil Sarah (umm, yeah that’s what it feels like!).  Thankfully, most days I am able to rationalize myself out of NOT eating Andy’s Frozen Custard for dinner.  And can I just say that is quite the feat when they are less than half a mile from your house?!  Don’t think I haven’t thought “hey, I’ll just walk there and that totally justifies eating it!”  Because I have.  Oh, I have.

So ice cream remains a treat, like it should.  And because I’ve got ice cream on the brain, I looked up some fun ice cream recipes online and wanted to share with you all.  Tell me these don’t get you drooling?!?

First, Key Lime Pie Ice Cream from yours truly.  I loooooove this stuff.  It totally transports me to Florida and white sandy beaches.  Ahhhhhh.

This recipe is from kevinandamanda.com and it’s for Homemade Ice Cream…WITHOUT an ice cream maker.  How brilliant is this??  Love how they do four different variations with the same ice cream base.

Nutella Peanut Butter Chip Ice Cream by Kevin and Amanda

Next up are these Confetti Ice Cream Pops from Country Living.  I love that you don’t have to have a special ice cream popsicle mold…just use small paper cups!  Brilliant.

Confetti Ice Cream Pops by Country Living

While not quite ice cream per se, an ice box cake is a frozen treat that I have been wanting to try FOREVER.  And this recipe for a No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake has inspired me to finally do it!  It’s just so pretty.

No-Bake Strawberry Ice Box Cake by theKitchn

Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich.  Want.  Now.

Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich by Good Life Eats

Mint and chocolate are one of my weaknesses which makes this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake oh so very tempting to me.  I think if I try it, I’ll use a boxed Devil’s Food Cake mix, just to save some precious time.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake by Southern Living

And last, but certainly not least, Almond Milk Ice Cream.  Jeremy and I have cut dairy from our everyday diet and I have been dying to try a recipe for almond milk ice cream.  This one looks good and I think I’ll try making it in my ice cream machine after mixing all the ingredients together and letting them chill.  I’ll definitely post my results on here!

Almond Milk Ice Cream by The Science of Eating

 

 

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Champagne Soaked Peach Sauce

Guess what is showing up at our local farmer’s market right now?  Peaches!  Beautiful, soft, juicy peaches.  This past Saturday I arrived at our local farmer’s market, Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks, at exactly 7:30 a.m. (yes, this is when they open and quite a few people had already beat me there!) to be sure I could get my hands on some before the crowds arrived.  I made a beeline to the booth that had them and happily paid for my peck of peaches.  I also managed to score some strawberries but barely, there were only a couple of pints left!

So I got what I came for and headed back to my kitchen…I had a plan for these peaches that involved champagne, brown sugar and lots of spices.  I could hardly wait to get started.  What resulted was one of the most delicious ice cream sauces I have ever tasted.  My kitchen smelled like a cross between Christmas from all the spices in the sauce and summer from the orange zest and peaches.  Pure. Heaven.  If you are a fan of peach pie, this will remind you of just that…but without the crust!  It is decadent and delicious over vanilla ice cream, especially homemade vanilla ice cream, which is exactly how we enjoyed it this past weekend.  Next week I’ll have another recipe that involves this peach sauce that is OUT OF THIS WORLD.  Stay tuned!

Champagne Soaked Peach Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Champagne (I used a Spumante)
  • 1½ c. Light Brown Sugar
  • ½ t. Cinnamon
  • ½ t. Nutmeg
  • ¼ t. Ground Ginger
  • 3 t. Cornstarch, divided
  • Zest of one Large Orange, finely chopped
  • 4 c. Sliced Peaches
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the champagne, brown sugar, spices and 1 t. cornstarch to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add orange zest and let cool completely.
  2. Place peaches in a shallow dish and pour the sauce over the peaches. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the peaches the next day and place in a bowl. Pour the sauce in a small saucepan again, whisk in 2 t. cornstarch and bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Cool completely. Sauce will thicken as it cools (mine was VERY thick after being in my refrigerator overnight).
  3. Serve sauce over ice cream with reserved peaches.
Notes
Serves 12-15.

 

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Honey Almond Date Balls

Memorial Day weekend is coming, bringing with it lots and lots and LOTS of food.  And I don’t know what it’s like where you’re at, but here it’s in the 90s already!  And you know what that means…pools.  And lakes.  And…bikinis.  Yes, it’s already swimsuit season!  Yikes!  Are you ready?!?  It kinda snuck up on me, I gotta admit, but I am trying to incorporate more and more natural sweets (as in honey, fruits, etc) into our diet so we don’t look like the michelin man when we bare it all at the first water-type event this year.  Of course, can’t do anything about the whiteness (trying to avoid that pesky skin caner) but we CAN do something about the shape of our bodies and our overall health!

(Sorry, little peptalk for myself there.  Ahem.  Ok, back to the recipe…)

If you are watching what goes in your mouth this weekend (like me and my husband) and are kinda scared about the next 72 hours of festivities and merriment, may I suggest these Honey Almond Date Balls as a sweet and healthy alternative?  You might want to double or triple the batch because once people taste them, they will want more.  Seriously.  Jeremy doesn’t even like coconut and he LOVES these things.  I left the recipe alone for the most part except instead of rolling the balls in more almonds, I rolled them in unsweetened coconut.

We love ’em.

We’ve made a double batch for this weekend.

We’re ready to battle the crazy food war.

BRING IT.

Original recipe by David Lieberman

Honey Almond Date Balls
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Raw Almonds (do 2 cups if you plan on rolling the balls in almonds)
  • 2 c. Pitted Dates, preferably Medjool
  • ¼ c. Raw Honey
  • ⅓ c. Dried, Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grind almonds in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until fragrant and a shade darker.
  3. Roughly chop dates and add to food processor. Pulse until finely chopped and dates form a ball. Remove from processor to a bowl. And the almonds and honey to the dates. Mix together until evenly incorporated.
  4. Using a damp washcloth to dampen your hands periodically, for the mixture into 1" balls and roll in the coconut.
  5. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for a few days or transfer to the fridge and they will keep for a couple of weeks.
Notes
Makes 25 balls.

 

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Sparkling Basil Lemonade

This past Friday night we had our once-a-month Gourmet Cooking Club that my friend, Shawna, hosts at her house.  It was a pizza themed event this time (yum!) and while everything was delicious, my favorite thing was actually a drink that Shawna made.  When we walked into her kitchen there was a beautiful glass punch bowl with what looked like lemonade but with something additional floating on top…basil leaves and sliced jalapenos!  Yes, somewhat uncommon for a sweet punch but trust me on this, it is AMAZING.  The lemonade is sweet and tart and bubbly and the basil is the perfect, refreshing addition.  And then there is just the slightest kick and spice from the jalapeno…it’s barely there but definitely noticeable and honestly, delicious!!

Put this one on your list for your Memorial Day party–I guarantee it will end up in your regular drink rotation for the summer!

Recipe by Better Homes and Gardens

Sparkling Basil Lemonade
 
Ingredients
  • 4 c. Water
  • 3 c. Sugar
  • 2 c. Fresh Basil Leaves (about 1-1/2 ounces)
  • 2, 1-liter Bottles Club Soda, chilled
  • 2 c. Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 Fresh Jalapeno Chile Pepper, sliced*
  • Fresh basil leaves
Instructions
  1. For basil syrup, in a large saucepan combine water, sugar, and basil. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain syrup and discard leaves. Cover and chill syrup for 2 to 24 hours.
  2. For lemonade, in a very large punch bowl combine chilled syrup, club soda, and lemon juice. Serve over ice and garnish with jalapeno slices and fresh basil leaves.
Notes
Makes 16, 8 oz. Servings *Tip:Because chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn skin and eyes, avoid direct contact with them as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If bare hands touch the peppers, wash hands and nails well with soap and warm water.

 

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Blackberry, Almond and White Chocolate Muffins

Every time I walk into the grocery store lately, all the beautiful berries are calling my name. Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are just begging to be bought right now and I just had to find a recipe that I could use some of them in.  I was struggling to find something that wasn’t a pie or layered cake when all the sudden I remembered a recipe I had made years ago for Strawberry Almond Muffins.  I also remembered it was very good so I thought maybe I’d give it a shot…but with a few changes, of course. 😉

Instead of strawberries I decided to use blackberries and also wanted to add some white chocolate.  The original recipe called for all-purpose and whole wheat flour but I wanted a slightly lighter muffin so I went with cake flour in place of the whole wheat.  What resulted was one of the most delicious, tender and tastiest muffins ever!  Now you could say this muffin was verging on cupcake status but hey, I see nothing wrong with that!  All I know is I loved these and if you need a recipe to use up some berries, I encourage you to try this one!  Feel free to substitute raspberries or sliced strawberries, if you’d prefer.  You really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.

Enjoy!

Blackberry, Almond and White Chocolate Muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 T. Almond Extract
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c. Whole Milk, room temperature
  • 2½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Cake Flour
  • 1½ T. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Sliced, Toasted Almonds
  • 1 c. White Chocolate Chips
  • 2 c. Blackberries (or more if you'd like)
Instructions
  1. Line 2, 12-cup regular muffin tins with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Beat ⅓ of the flour mixture until the butter/sugar mixture, then beat in half the milk. Beat in another ⅓ of the flour. Beat in the final half of the milk and then the last ⅓ of the flour. Fold in white chocolate chips and almonds. Very gently fold in the blackberries and divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins (some of mine were quite full so you could probably get more like 25-28 muffins out of this recipe).
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack or eat while they are still a bit warm...they are VERY good like that. (I topped mine with a little white chocolate and single blackberry for the photos..up to you if you want to do that but be sure they have cooled completely if you do.)
Notes
Makes 24, regular size muffins.

 

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Chocolate Chip Quinoa Trail Mix Balls

This was my first time making anything sweet with quinoa and can I just say, I am forever changed!  Knowing that I can incorporate something into my desserts that is so nutritious and protein packed, is revolutionary.  Not kidding.  I was definitely skeptical how this would work, but once you mix all these ingredients together, you don’t even know the quinoa is there…all you know is that these balls are DELICIOUS.

I found this recipe on the eat, live, run blog.  I used her original recipe but once I had everything mixed up, it was VERY loose and absolutely not sticking together.  I might have done something wrong…who knows?  But I still thought the mixture tasted AMAZING and decided to just add some more stuff and hope it would come together.  The recipe was originally gluten-free but to get it to stick together I had to throw in some white whole wheat flour (which is the only one I had on hand).  You could use another type of gluten-free flour though if you have issues with gluten.

In the end, the balls stuck together nicely and tasted sooooo yummy.  They seriously remind me of an oatmeal cookie and are definitely my new favorite healthy sweet treat…well, after my No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Krisp Treats.  Those things can’t be beat.

Chocolate Chip Quinoa Trail Mix Balls
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Thick Rolled Oats, dry
  • 1 c. Cooked Quinoa
  • 1 c. White Whole Wheat Flour (or whole wheat pastry, almond flour, etc)
  • ½ c. Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut
  • ⅓ c., plus 2 T. Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • ⅔ c. Dried, Unsweetened Dark Tart Cherries
  • ⅔ c., plus 2 T. Agave
  • ¼ c. Organic, All-Natural Peanut Butter (no added salt, oil)
  • 1 t. Sea Salt (I use pink himalayan)
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the oats and next five ingredients. In a small pot on the stove, bring the agave to a simmer over medium/low. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, salt and vanilla. Pour over oat mixture and mix well until combined. Let cool. Add mini chocolate chips into mixture. Form into 1" balls with your hands. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Notes
Makes 50, 1" balls.

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Simple Strawberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe was inspired my two things:  1.  The abundance of strawberries AND strawberry recipes right now and 2. my brand spankin’ new cupcake carrier!  That’s right, I FINALLY am the proud owner of a collapsible cupcake carrier (yes, I had to improvise for quite awhile to transport them!) all thanks to my boss.  A couple of weeks ago it was Administrative Assistant’s Day and my boss was out of town so obviously I knew I wouldn’t get anything and it wasn’t a big deal to me.  But he got back the Friday of that week and when I came back from lunch, this beauty was sitting on my desk.  Ain’t she purty?  And can I just say this thing ROCKS??  It’s both a cake and a cupcake carrier.  I was a little skeptical it would work, but it totally does and I highly recommend getting one if you don’t have one yet!

As for the recipe, do you know how hard it is to find a strawberry cake recipe that doesn’t call for strawberry Jello and a white cake mix?  It’s dang near impossible!  But a couple of years ago and did manage to find one and for the life of me I can’t remember the website I got the recipe from but all I know is it’s titled Katie’s Strawberry Cake, so whoever Katie is, thank you!!  I was so happy when I found the recipe that I made it three times within two weeks…yes, it’s that good.

The method of this cake is a little different because you beat the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the liquid but have no doubt, it totally works.  I absolutely loved these cupcakes…there were small pieces of fresh strawberry in every other bite and the chocolate cream cheese frosting was to-die-for.  The only thing I’d do different is maybe just leave the chocolate out of the frosting next time and do a plain, vanilla cream cheese frosting, as the strawberry cake is such a delicate flavor it almost overpowers it.  But it’s still delicious.

If you are looking for a true “from scratch” strawberry cake, look no further!  This one definitely fits the bill.

Simple Strawberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Ingredients
Strawberry Cupcakes
  • 1 c. Strawberry Puree, room temperature (see below for recipe)
  • ¼ c. Whole Milk, room temperature
  • 6 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2¼ c. Cake Flour
  • 1¾ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 12 T. (1½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened and cut into 1" chunks
Strawberry Puree
  • 2 c. Sliced Strawberries
  • 2 T. Granulated Sugar
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1, 8 oz. Cream Cheese, cold
  • ¼ c. Crisco
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 3 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 5 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 4 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, melted
Instructions
For the Strawberry Puree
  1. Place strawberries and sugar in food processor or blender and puree.
For the Strawberry Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the strawberry puree, milk, egg, vanilla and whisk well. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk thoroughly. Beat the butter into the dry ingredients on low speed and mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
  3. Add liquids to the butter/flour mixture and beat a medium speed for about one minutes or until evenly combined. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of bowl and beat for 30 more seconds. Place three tablespoons of batter into each muffin tin.
  4. Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for a few minutes and then remove from pans and let cool completely.
For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Cream the butter, shortening, cream cheese, salt and extracts on medium speed until combined. Beat in the powdered sugar and then the melted chocolate and beat until combined (do NOT overbeat or the cream cheese will break down). Frost cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Notes
Makes 24 cupcakes.

 

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Sweet This and That

As you can see, I couldn’t really come up with a title for this somewhat random post.  Sometimes inspiration or whatever you want to call it just doesn’t strike and you have to call it what it is!  Hence, the title.

If you remember, back in March I visited my good friend Joelle and we had the BEST time shopping and eating our weight in cupcakes (see pics here, here, here and here).  And she also had the sweetest goodie bag waiting for me when I got to my room…it was packed full of my favorite sweet treats such as cayenne covered dried mango, dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts, gourmet hot cocoa and some other fun dessert-themed treats which I wanted to share!

I believe most of these came from World Market so if you have one near you, check it out for these items.

White Chocolate Mousse Body Wash and Body Butter.  Smells heavenly.  Trust me on this.

Cupcake Bath Fizz.  I love this little thing.  But it’s so cute I don’t want to use it!  What to do?!

Cupcake Mints.  The BEST way to “freshen” your breath.

This is a shirt I actually got at Kohl’s.  Had to share!  (Yes…I am FULLY aware that I am 30 and wearing Hello Kitty…and I don’t care!)

And these are my current obsession.  Believe it or not, I had never made cake pops until about a month ago but I LOVE making them and they are sooooo yummy.

Well, thanks for visiting and checking out my randomness!  Hope it made you smile. 🙂

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Sugar Cookie Bars

If you’re like me and LOVE frosted sugar cookies but don’t have the patience for the whole rolling and cutting part, I have a solution!  A completely delicious solution.  I had seen recipes online for sugar cookie bars but all the ones I was finding called for an absurd amount of flour (5 cups!), etc and a huge baking pan that I didn’t have and there was no way I was going to go look for and buy one just for this recipe.  So I played with the amounts of ingredients and am happy to report that I hit it out of the ball park on the first try!  These sugar cookies are made in a 9×13 pan and are absolutely, incredibly, amazingly YUMMY.  I love almond so I added that flavor.  If you’re not an almond fan, feel free to substitute more vanilla extract.  These bars and soft and slightly chewy and in my opinion perfect in every single way.  To say I had a couple would be an understatement…but we won’t get into that.

Hope you love them as much as I did!

Sugar Cookie Bars
 
Ingredients
Sugar Cookie Bars
  • 1½ sticks Unsalted Butter
  • 1½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1½ t. Almond Extract
  • 3¼ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ t. Salt
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
Almond Buttercream
  • 1½ sticks Unsalted Butter
  • 3 t. Almond Extract
  • 1½ t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 3 T. Heavy Whipping Cream (or milk)
Instructions
For the Sugar Cookie Bars
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and almond and mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. And to butter/sugar mixture and beat until just combined. Spread into baking pan.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick/tester comes out clean (mine were done closer to 15 minutes). Cool completely and frost.
For the Almond Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add almond and vanilla extracts. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, then add heavy whipping cream and beat until smooth. Spread onto cooled sugar cookie bars.
Notes
Makes 18 bars.

 

 

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No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites, Take Two

A little over a month ago I posted this recipe for some scrumptious no-bake peanut butter bites.  Since that time I have tinkered with the recipe just a bit and Jeremy and I now have a new favorite healthy sweet treat.  We both agree that these taste just like no-bake cookies except, of course, without the butter, refined sugar and all the other not so good for you stuff.  These are so delicious and so easy, all made in one big bowl.  We love them and think you will too!

No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites, Take Two
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. All-Natural, Organic Peanut Butter
  • ⅔ c. Raw Honey
  • 1½ T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1½ t. Fine Sea Salt (recommend pink himalayan)
  • 2 c. Thick Rolled Oats
  • ¼ c. Wheat Germ
  • ½ c. White Whole Wheat Flour
  • ¼ c. Cocoa
  • ¼ c. All-Natural Chocolate Protein Powder (or just use more cocoa)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl stir together peanut butter, honey, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add oats, wheat germ, white whole wheat flour, cocoa and chocolate protein powder (if using) and stir until thoroughly mixed together. Form into 1" balls and store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 50, 1" balls.

 

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