Sweet Visitors!

Over the weekend, my husband’s cousin and his wife came to spend the weekend (I am just going to refer to them as my cousins for the remainder of this post, because they are now)! Whenever I have anyone coming over, I always like to have a few desserts around, you know, just in case! This might be more for my benefit than anyone else’s, but it sure is a good excuse! 

There’s a recipe idea I’ve had for a while now but hadn’t made yet…this was the perfect occasion to finally pull that trigger! I love S’mores and have been thinking of a way to make it into a pie. I have done a cake in the past (and thought it was quite delicious) but wanted to try something different. My idea was to make a basic graham cracker crumb crust, a brownie filling and marshmallow top. It turned out quite tasty, but next time, I think I’ll make a larger batch of brownies as the pie came kind of thin looking…although more fudgy brownies would certainly make this pie uber rich…but that’s never been a complaint of mine!

I also wanted to have something around that you can just grab one or two of, as opposed to having to go through all of the effort of cutting something. I’ve made dough balls in the past, but I modified my old recipe and cooking time and these turned out the best so far! I literally ate almost an entire batch the night before our cousin’s got in and had to make more…oops.

Brownie S’more Pie:

Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers if doing yourself)
  • 8 T butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Brownie (The Baked Brownie):

  • 10 T butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder, heaping
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

15 large Marshmallows cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 8 or 9 inch round pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and cocoa together until butter is completely melted and everything is incorporated. It might be a little grainy, but that is OK. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, beat eggs and vanilla together until creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture, beating to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the cocoa mixture and then the flour, beating just until combined…don’t over-mix. Pour into the crust

Bake for 23 minutes, then top with marshmallow halves, cut side down and bake another 3 or so minutes, just until melted. I used a propane torch to blacken the tops of the marshmallows a bit, but you could also just turn the broiler on for a minute or so on high (just be careful, they can go from white to super black in 3 seconds so watch them carefully)!

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Dough Balls (aka, little bites of heaven):

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream together butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add egg then vanilla. Slowly add in flour, beating just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into balls (I used an ice cream scooper but you can use whatever size you like). Place onto greased or silpat lined baking sheet. You do not need to leave much room between them because they do not flatten nor grow much. Bake for 10 minutes…they will look a little underdone but they are done. Trust me. The biggest mistake you can make with these (and trust me, I’ve done it several times now) is to over bake them! You want them to be doughy, soft and cookie dough-like on the inside and more like a cookie on the outside.

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Sweet Treats!

I know I said I was going to be better about posting pics, but unfortunately that does not start today! I was going to wait to post something until I had pictures but then decided, why wait? Just post something with pictures next time! 

You always hear how tastes change as you get older and boy is that ever true! I used to hate peppermint, everything about it, the smell of peppermint used to make me nauseous! This past winter, around Christmas though, I randomly decided to taste my husband’s peppermint mocha he ordered since the smell didn’t upset me! To my complete surprise, it was delicious. I have now consumed over 50 peppermint mochas and it’s only been about a month…once I like something, I go all out! Since I was drinking so many (sometimes 2 a day, seriously), I decided to make my own at home to save some money. I didn’t make any fancy syrup or anything even remotely complicated, although I certainly will soon…I just used a really good dark chocolate, chopped up, and put in in the glass with the milk before steaming. The steam melts the chocolate and creates a rich, creamy cocoa which I then added peppermint extract and espresso to! Another way I have done it is to add peppermint chips (found all over around Christmas time, not so much anymore though) in with the chocolate chunks and steam them all together. I prefer this way however, as I said, it might be hard to find peppermint chips now that Christmas is over…I knew I should have stocked up!

Another peppermint item that seems to have come up a lot this past year was peppermint bark. My mother-in-law loves it and my sister-in-law makes the best one…so I got her recipe and have made at least 10 batches so far, a few of those strictly for me to ‘taste-test!’ So if you want the best peppermint bark, and you should always want only the best, here’s her super simple, yet delicious recipe:

Peppermint Bark:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (good dark chocolate is the key here, you want a really good brand)
  • 2 teaspoons oil or shortening (I used shortening but either works…just gives it a nice shine as opposed to a dullness dry chocolate tends to take on)
  • 6 ounces white chocolate (same rule, good quality makes all the difference)
  • 2 teaspoons oil or shortening
  • 3/4 – 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • crushed candy canes

Line an 8X8 pan with wax or parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate with the shortening or oil in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Pour the chocolate into the 8X8 pan, banging pan on counter top to even out the chocolate layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the chocolate sets and hardens. 

After 30 minutes, melt the white chocolate and shortening or oil in a a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Remove the white chocolate from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Let cool a few minutes while you get the hardened chocolate out of the refrigerator. Pour the white chocolate/peppermint over the dark chocolate. Smooth it out using an offset spatula, reaching every corner. Bang pan on counter top again to even everything out. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and refrigerate until set/hardened.

 

I usually keep the bark in the fridge until I want a piece or am bringing it somewhere so it stays hard. You can leave it out, it will just get a little soft from the oil/shortening…delicious either way, personal preference!

Hello 2014!

It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us but they were some of the best times of 2013! It started on December 19th when my husband took me to New York for my birthday…best birthday so far! NY was amazing, as expected, and we had two of the best meals we’ve had in a really long time…highly recommend Telepan and/or Scalini Fredelli if you are ever there! From NY we headed straight to Michigan for Christmas, finally reunited with our puppy, then headed back to Illinois for a second Christmas spent at my parents! Finally returned home to spend a night in our own bed for once, only to wake up early, head to work Monday the 30th, then back to Michigan straight from work for New Years Eve and the Winter Classic hockey game in Ann Arbor! We drove straight to work Thursday morning and finally returned home for good that evening! Whew, I’m exhausted just writing all that but it was all well worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing if we could do it all over again!

 

The first thing we did when we got home was get right back in the kitchen! We whipped up an amazing homemade spinach and porcini stuffed ravioli with truffle cream sauce and lamb chops for dinner Friday night! Dessert was a dark chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, pure decadence! Breakfast the next morning consisted of a shaved Brussels sprout and potato hash topped with poached eggs, divine. Cooking and baking was our way of relaxing and enjoying being home!

 

Homemade Spinach and Porcini Ravioli:

Dough:

2 cups flour

2  whole eggs and 1 yolk

1 T olive oil

1 t salt

 

Filling:

1 package porcini mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped

1 container ricotta

1/3 – 1/2 cup parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 t truffle oil

Sauce:

1/3 cup reserved mushroom mixture

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

2 T flour

1 pint cream

1/3 cup parmesan

1 t truffle salt

Pepper to taste

1-2 truffle oil

 

For the dough, mound the flour and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs,.yolk, salt and olive oil, gently beat with a fork, gradually incorporating more flour from outside the well as you go. When dough comes roughly together, start kneading with your hands until incorporated and no longer sticky. Knead for 7 – 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the filling. Heat the oil and butter in large saucepan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in spinach, cooking another minute or two until wilted. Keep about 1/3 cup of this mixture in the pan and mix the rest in a large bowl with ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper and truffle oil. Set aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to the reserved mixture. When butter melts, add 2 tablespoons flour and let cook for 2 minutes or so. Begin adding cream slowly, whisking the entire time until smooth. Let boil, then simmer, add in parmesan and simmer until desired thickness. Add in truffle salt, pepper and oil.

After 20 minutes, heat a large pot of heavily salted water to boiling and unwrap dough and cut into 4 equal sections. I used my kitchenaid mixer attachment and rolled the dough out to a 5. If you don’t have one, roll out each section as thin as you can with a rolling pin. I also used my ravioli maker attachment to make the ravioli, following the instructions in the manual. If you don’t have one, place teaspoons of filling an inch apart on one rolled out sheet of dough. Top with a second sheet, seal edges and cut out squares or circles, sealing edges as you go (or you can use a ravioli cutter/stamp if you have one of those). Once all are cut, place in boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to float. Drain and add to truffle sauce, tossing to coat. Top with more parmesan cheese and dig in!

 

Dark  Chocolate Cake (adapted from Ina Garten):

1 3/4 cup flour, sifted

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder

2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 cup fresh coffee

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and mix well. In a other bowl,combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add tge wet to the dry until combined. Slowly add in coffee, batter will be thin. Pour into two greased 8-inch cake pans. Bake 30 minutes.

 

Salted Caramel Frosting:

1 cup sugar

4 T water

2 T light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 T butter

3/4 t salt

Then: 2 sticks softened butter, 3 cups powdered sugar and 1 cup salted caramel

Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring with a woodenspoon. Once dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and let boil without stirring. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color, remove from heat and add in heavy cream, butter and salt. Careful, mixture will bubble up and is very hot. Mix until butter melts and cream is incorporated, pour into bowl and set aside to cool and thicken. Meanwhile, whip butter until creamy, add in powdered sugar and whip until fluffy. Add in caramel, whipping until fluffy and incorporated. Frost cake any way you’d like, sprinkling top with more coarse salt! (I cut each 8-inch round in half so I had a 4 layer cake and drizzled the frosted top with a dark chocolate ganache, letting it drip down the sides and didn’t frost the sides of the cake at all, just between the cake layers).

 

Hash;

1 very large or 2 medium potatoes, diced

Diced pancetta (I use Trader Joes pre-packaged diced)

10-15 brussels sprouts, shaved

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

1 t vinegar

 

Boil potatoes until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat pancetta in olive oil in a large saucepan until crispy. Add onion and brussels sprouts. Cook until softened, add in softened potatoes and garlic. Season to taste. Cook until potatoes are browned. Meanwhile, bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add in vinegar and use spatula to swirl water, creating a pseudo whirlpool effect. Crack eggs into individual dishes and gently slide into swirling water. Cook about 3 minutes, they should still be jiggly! Scoop hash into bowls, spoon eggs out of water using a slotted spoon and place atop hash. Crack eggs and use yolk as sauce for hash. Poaching eggs is now our favorite way to eat eggs, we’re obsessed…and it’s all thanks to Locanda Verde in NY!

It’s good to be home!

P.S. New Years resolution is to be better at taking pictures to post!

Took me long enough!

First off, I want to start by apologizing for my extremely long absence! I really don’t have a good excuse and won’t lie and say I was doing some other amazing things, truth is, the baking and cooking never stopped but my blogging did. So for that, I apologize and would love to get back into the swing of things! And what better way to start than with one of the most tasty things I’ve ever made! Now, most of you are surely thinking, what rich, delectable, over-the-top dessert did she bake now? However, I went and did just the opposite…this recipe is actually a savory bread. In fact, it is the very first yeasted white bread I have baked and I will most certainly be doing it again! I have already brainstormed the many ways I can use this basic recipe with different fillings…oh the exciting possibilities are just endless! The one I made yesterday is a Sriracha cheddar bread….it has that spiciness from the Sriracha and the salty savoriness from the sharp cheddar. My mind has already jumped to marinara/pepperoni, caprese with basil and mozzarella, or a sweeter version with cinnamon and sugar. I can’t wait to test out some more soon enough! The only hold up is that you need a lot of time for this bread, the actually dough itself is very easy and basic to make, however the time to let it rise (twice in fact) is very time-consuming, so just make sure you have at least 6 hours for this bread…but I can say with 100% certainty that it is well worth the wait!

I came across this recipe on Pinterest and it is one of the first recipes I have followed, almost exactly. The only changes I made was to decrease the salt to only 1 teaspoon since I used salted butter and a salty sharp cheddar and I lowered the oven temperature and adjusted the baking times.  So without further ado, here it is:

Sriracha Cheddar Bread:

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package instant dry yeast
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • Vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray, as needed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, butter and sugar over medium-low heat until the butter is just beginning to melt. Whisk together to finish melting butter and remove from heat. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let sit/proof for about 10 minutes, or until yeast is foamy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add in the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until mostly combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead into a ball shape, about a minute or so. Put dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes.

After the dough rests for the 20 minutes, turn it out onto the well floured surface and knead until dough is soft and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Return dough to oiled bowl, cover and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (I turned the oven on to warming, about 150 degrees, let it preheat to that temperature, turned it off, let it cool while I kneaded the dough with the oven door open, then put the bowl in there for the 2 hours).

After the two hours are up, return the dough to the floured surface, punch it down and roll it out into a 9-inch rectangle. Spread the Sriracha over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all four sides. Cover Sriracha with the cheddar cheese, respecting the same border. Roll the dough up, from one of the long sides (jelly roll style), making sure to seal the seam well so none of the goodness escapes while baking! Place the rolled dough into an oiled 9X5-inch baking pan, seam side down. Once again, cover with a kitchen towel, set in a warm place and allow to double in size, about another 2 hours.

Finally, bake the bread! Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, spray/mist the inside walls of the oven and top of the bread with water generously and bake for 30 minutes. (This allows the bread to steam while baking, yielding a more delicious bread consistency)!  Remove bread from oven, remove bread from pan, place bread back in oven, directly on oven rack and bake another 10 minutes.

The hardest part of this recipe was letting the bread cool before cutting into it. I’m not gonna lie, I couldn’t wait any longer than 10 minutes, and I don’t regret it at all…go make this bread immediately!

Here is the original link I used: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cheddar-Sriracha-Swirl-Bread-364269#ixzz2fvSHB7c4

Cheesecake Cake is Way Better than Cake Cake!

So it turns out that making the German Chocolate Cheesecake Cake for my best friend becoming a Doctor has inspired me to make more cheesecake cakes! I had a serious chocolate craving Sunday so decided that layering dark chocolate cheesecake with a brownie cake all inside of a chocolate pretzel crust would certainly satisfy it! I didn’t want to eat an entire cake to myself (sadly this has been known to happen on more than one occasion), so wanted to incorporate another element besides chocolate so Josh would help me out! I don’t think he’d be as big of a fan as me if I topped the entire cake with a rich chocolate frosting…so I went with the always pleasing, never-failing peanut butter frosting I use frequently! In retrospect, I should have done half and half, next time!

Chocolate Pretzel Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups salted pretzels, processed to crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, melted

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake:

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I went with Ghiradelli on this one)!

Brownie Cake:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 ounces chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • dash of salt

First, mix pretzel crumbs with sugar, then add in melted butter. Mix until well combined. Add in melted chocolate and mix again until thoroughly combined. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Try to get the crust as high up the sides of the pan as possible (at least 3 inches is ideal). Put in fridge while making the cheesecake. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, beat together cream cheese until fluffy. Add in sugar and beat until combined. Add in vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in melted, cooled chocolate, mixing to combine then pour over crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until center is still wobbly but edges are cooked. Let cool in pan on wire rack. For brownie cake, melt butter and chocolate together either in a double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave. When melted, let cool slightly, then whisk in sugar until completely dissolved. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla then salt and flour. Beat until flour is just combined (over-mixing will yield a tough brownie/cake). Pour into a greased 9-inch round pan and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes before removing from pan. Turn cake onto rack and let cool completely.

Make frosting while cakes cool. When cool enough to frost, add 1/3 of the frosting to the top of the cheesecake, then top with the brownie cake. Then frost the entire top and sides of the brownie cake. Let chill in fridge at least a few hours, overnight is ideal but I was way to impatient and the craving was way to strong for me to wait that long!

Becoming a Doctor Warrants One Amazing Cake!

My best friend Em became a Doctor last Thursday! She graduated with her Doctorate in Pharmacology after nearly 12 years of school!! As you can imagine, a celebration was in full effect…and of course, if I am involved, any celebration requires a dessert of some kind! Em’s favorite cake is German Chocolate, which I have made in the past for her so wanted to do something a little different…German Chocolate Cake with a twist! I layered a cake on top of a cheesecake, filled it with some frosting and baked it in a crust…sounds fancy I know, but well worth it!

German Chocolate Cheesecake Cake:

German Chocolate Cake:

1 pkg. (4 oz.) German Chocolate
½ cup water
4 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 t vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Coconut Pecan Frosting:

4 egg yolks
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1-1/2 t vanilla
1-1/2 cups sugar
¾ cup butter or margarine
1 pkg. (7 oz.)  coconut (2-2/3 cups)
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

German Chocolate Cheesecake:

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3 ounces German Chocolate, melted and cooled

Crust:

1 package oreos, crumbed in food processor
1 stick butter

Ganache:

1/3 cup heavy cream
5 ounces German Chocolate

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  For the crust, combine melted butter with oreo crumbs, mix until combined enough to press and hold together. Press into a 9-inch springform pan, and at least 3 inches up the sides (this is important, to hold the cake together some what…I used a flat sided round glass to keep pushing the mixture up the sides, it was a little tedious but worked. Once ready, put in fridge to cool while you make the ganache and cheesecake.

For the ganache, which isn’t necessary, but certainly adds a little more decadence to this already heavenly creation! Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling.  Once warm enough, pour over chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until chocolate melts. Pour over the crust and put back in the fridge to continue cooling while you make the cheesecake.

For the cheesecake, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in sugar, beat until combined. Add in vanilla then eggs one at a time. Finally, beat in melted, cooled chocolate and mix until combined. Pour into prepared crust, atop the ganache. Bake 45 minutes.

Next, make the German Chocolate Cake.  Grease another 9-inch round pan with cooking spray very well. Microwave chocolate and water in large microwaveable bowl on high 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Beat egg whites in small bowl with mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form; set aside. Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition. Add egg whites; stir gently until well blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan 15 min.; remove to wire rack and cool completely. This cake baked up pretty thick so I ended up cutting off about 1/3 of the top (I had to flatten the top for layering purposes anyways so just took off a bit more cake so that it was the same size as the cheesecake).

For the coconut pecan frosting, in a large saucepan, beat egg yolks, milk and vanilla with whisk until well blended. Add sugar and butter; cook on medium heat about 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add coconut and nuts; mix well. Cool to desired spreading consistency, mine took about 15 minutes in the fridge.

Now to assemble the masterpiece…Spread about 1/2 of the coconut frosting on top of the cheesecake. Gently place the cake layer on top of the filling and then finish by frosting the entire top and sides of the cake part only. You do not need to frost the crumb layer on the side, just the cake portion! Let sit in fridge at least 3 hours but overnight is ideal!

Layers of goodness!

My Sincere Apologies

Ok, first I want to apologize for the extreme lack of posts in the past few weeks! It is certainly not because I haven’t been busy in the kitchen, just not sure what happened…did not seem to have any free time for myself any time recently! So this post is going to be a compilation of some of the better things I’ve made over the past few weeks! I apologize for the lack of pictures as well and will get back on track and start posting again, I promise!

Pumpkin Granola:

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or regular flour is fine)
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • 1/2 T cinnamon
  • Dash of cloves, ginger and nutmeg (I used less cloves and ginger because that is what I prefer, but completely up to you)…could also sub pumpkin pie spice and get everything in one shot!
  • 1/2 can of pumpkin (don’t worry, plenty of uses for the rest of that can)!
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T honey

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the pumpkin, applesauce and honey. Add to dry ingredients, mixing well to coat everything. Pour into an 8X8 baking pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, turning every 15 minutes or so.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:

adapted from Paula Deen

Crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted butter

Filling:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta (Paula uses 3 packages of cream cheese, I have made it that way as well and it is fabulous)!
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (Paula uses sour cream)!
  • 1  cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (Paula uses all white sugar)!
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of cloves and dash of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan very well.

For crust: In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into prepared pan.

For filling: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place in oven for 50-55 minutes. Center will still be wobbly (2-3 inches out from center is ok, it will set up as it cools and refrigerates)! Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. You may have heard/read other recipes where a water bath is necessary to bake a cheesecake but since this one has flour added in, it isn’t necessary. However, I have made this recipe in the past and used a water bath and it turned out just as good, just not necessary!

Pumpkin Spice ‘Donut Holes’:

For the Holes:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • dash of  ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used vanilla silk)

For the coating:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices, whisking to combine. In large bowl, beat oil with sugar until dissolved. Add in pumpkin, egg, milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until just combined. Fill mini-muffin tins until almost full, bake 8-9 minutes. While baking, melt butter in small bowl. In another bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar together. When donuts are done, let cool until able to touch and remove from pan. Coat hole with butter (can either paint them with butter or just roll them around in the butter) then roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Set on cooling rack to finish cooling and eat as many as you can warm because these babies are delicious!

Pumpkin Beer Bread:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ginger
  • dash of nutmeg and allspice
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 ounces pumpkin ale
  • cinnamon sugar mix

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X5 loaf pan. Combine flours, powder, soda, salt and spices in medium bowl. In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove pan from heat, mix in pumpkin and brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking the entire time. Finally, stir in the pumpkin ale. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, mix until just combined. Transfer to prepared pan and top with cinnamon sugar. Bake 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake:

Syrup:

  • 4 T butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T apple cider or juice
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Cake:

  • 2 apples, sliced (reserve top of 1 apple with stem intact)
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T cider or apple juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • dash of cloves and salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 apple, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan thoroughly. Place top of apple with stem in center of pan, stem-side down, then line bottom of pan  with apple slices overlapping in a circle around  apple top. 

 Next, make the syrup. In a saucepan over low heat, combine all of the syrup ingredients and heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour a little over half the syrup over the apple slices and set aside rest of syrup. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, cider, and eggs. Mix until combined and sugar is dissolved. In separate bowl, whisk flour, spices and soda. Add dry into wet, mixing to combine. Fold in chopped apples. Pour batter over apple slices and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and scrape around edges of cake with a spatula, let cool on wire rack 5 minutes then turn out onto a serving plate, bottom side up. Scrape any remaining sauce out of the pan onto the cake. Pour remaining syrup over cake when serving.

Strawberry Bread:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, halved
  • 3 T milk (I used vanilla silk)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9×5 loaf pan with spray. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl, whisk to combine. Put strawberries and milk into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Add oil and applesauce, blend until combined well. Add strawberry mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until justl incorporated. (Overmixing will produce a tough bread). Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

Your Trip Begins at Michigan.org!

We finally made it back to Michigan for some much over-due family time! It has been forever since we’d been back there to spend some quality time with everyone so once we heard Josh had the weekend off from coaching hockey, we grabbed the opportunity to rush out there! I knew that all four nieces and nephews were going to be around Friday when we arrived so I wanted to bring something fun and kid-friendly yet also delicious and adult-friendly with as a treat! I figured cake balls would be the perfect thing…what kid or adult doesn’t like a gooey, chocolatey ball of goodness?! One cake makes quite a lot of cake balls (even more, if you count the 13 I ate while making them)…so I decided to do three different frosting options instead of having 50 of the same kind. After much deliberation, and for those of you that know me and my ridiculous indecisiveness, I meant MUCH deliberation, I eventually settled on peanut butter, rich chocolate and homemade marshmallow fluff. Side note…homemade fluff was incredibly easy, I will never buy a jar of Fluff again and wish I would have made more since peanut butter and fluff sandwiches are one of my favorites! First things first, you have to bake a cake as a starting point. I went with my tried and true Ina Garten chocolate cake recipe I use for almost everything.

Crumbled cake!

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2  eggs, at room temp
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9X13 inch cake pan or line with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low-speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into pan and bake 30-35 minutes.  Let cake cool completely on wire rack.  Once cooled, crumble cake into a bowl (or in my case, 3 separate bowls)!

Peanut Butter Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 T heavy cream

Beat peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar until completely dissolved and smooth. Add in vanilla, then heavy cream (more or less than the 2 T depending on what you need to reach desired thickness/consistency). You want it a little thick so that it holds the cake together and forms a nice moist ball.

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 4 T butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and boiling water, stir until cocoa has dissolved, set aside. Beat on medium-high, butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add in melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until well combined, add in cocoa mixture.

Doesn’t that just look amazing!?

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • dash of salt

In a double boiler placed over simmering water, beat egg whites, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. (Whisk this mixture the entire time). Once dissolved, pour the mixture into a cool bowl, add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Sooooo good, really wish I would have made more!

Ok once the cake is cooled and crumbled into bowls, it’s time for the cake ball assembly! This is kind of tedious and takes a little while, but is worth it if you have the time! I like to use the food processor for this part, it just makes a much smoother and well combined ball, but you can just mix it by hand if you prefer. Pour the cake crumbs into the food processor and add in the frosting, process until combined. Dump back into bowl and start forming balls, any size will do, just depends on how big you want them! Roll balls until mixture is gone and place in fridge until cooled (at least a half hour). Repeat with remaining cake and frostings, and let cool in fridge. I am sure you can speed this process along by putting them in the freezer for a little while instead of the fridge, but I haven’t tried it!

See how smooth and moist? Easy for ball rolling!

Once the balls are all cooled, melt a bunch of chocolate with a few teaspoons of shortening in a double boiler or the microwave. (I used an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3 teaspoons of shortening). The shortening helps keep the chocolate smooth and prevents clumping and also leaves a nice shine! Place some parchment or wax paper on a sheet pan and dip or roll each ball in the melted chocolate until well coated, then place on wax paper to harden. In order to tell the three balls apart, I crushed up some Reese’s peanut butter cups and Graham Crackers in different bowls and rolled the peanut butter balls in the peanut butter cups and the fluff balls in the graham cracker crumbs (kind of a s’more type thing). Once all of the balls are covered, set the pan back in the fridge to finish setting up.

Finished products! From left to right: peanut butter cup, triple chocolate and s’more!

 

Any Reason to Celebrate is a Reason to Bake!!

So this past weekend we celebrated my ‘grandma’ Katie’s 89th birthday. I use the quotes around grandma because she is not actually my grandma but may as well be! She has been around since long before I was born and is my mom’s Godmother. Katie does not have any grandchildren of her own, but we are as close as can be to her actual grandkids! Katie has done more for us than most ‘real’ grandmas do for their grandkids! We do not get to see Kayster (as I like to call her) very often anymore so I had to jump at the chance for a little celebration in her honor…couldn’t miss it! And of course, since there was something to be celebrated, I got to try out a few recipes I’ve been wanting to try!

I had made some pumpkin spice syrup for lattes earlier in the week and had the majority of a can of pumpkin left over in the fridge so definitely wanted to use that up; gooey pumpkin butter cake, done! Next I have been wanting to try out this brownie batter dip recipe I saw a while and figured that if I combined it with chocolate chip cookies, I could use it as a ‘cream filling’ for a cookie sandwich rather than a dip! So I also baked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies using a new recipe I saw on Pinterest! The cake turned out really good…tasted like pumpkin pie on top of buttery cake…not a bad combination! I did overcook it a tad though so the center was mostly where any ‘gooeyness’ was but it was still tasty! The cookie recipe I used yielded some very moist and chewy cookies, definitely using that recipe again in the future! And the brownie batter dip is simply sinful, I was just eating it with a spoon, no dippers needed…and sandwiched between two soft, chocolatey cookies was so good…my mouth was doing a little happy dance!

Gooey Pumpkin Cake 

Adapted from Paula Deen

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 10-12 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch square pan. For the bottom layer, combine the cake mix, egg and melted butter until smooth and all mixed. Pat the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Beat together the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth and combined. Add in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and melted butter. Next add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat until combined and pour over cake mix in bottom of pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Do not over-bake this, it is supposed to be ‘gooey!’ The center should still be a tad ‘wobbly’ when it is finished cooking but the edges will be brown and starting to pull away from the pan.

Not exactly the same size, but how pretty do those look?!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray or lay down a silpat on a cookie sheet. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugars until smooth and dissolved. Add in vanilla, egg and egg yolk, beating after each addition. Add in dry ingredients, then fold in chocolate chips. Making larger cookies, this will not yield all too many, I think I got about a dozen or 15 tops! But I used a 1/4 cup or so of batter per cookie! You can make them any size you’d like, but I wanted big, chewy bake-shop style cookies! If you go with larger cookies, make sure they are spaced apart more than the usual amount and bake for 13-15 minutes. Center will appear slightly undercooked but bottoms should be brown and the center will set up when cool.

Don’t you just want to eat those up!?

Brownie Batter Dip:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 T flour
  • 5 T cocoa powder
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T milk

Combine cream cheese and butter, mixing until incorporated and smooth. Add in powdered sugar, flour, cocoa and brown sugar. Add in vanilla, then milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Adding more if thinner consistency is desired. Try not to eat the whole thing, honestly!

New Take on an Old Goodie!

I have made countless banana breads and posted a few of them already so I wanted to do something different with the ripening bananas sitting on my counter top! I saw a recipe recently for ‘banana bread brownies’ on, of course, Pinterest which got me thinking of my best friend Emily’s banana bread cake she made! I settled on a combination of the two (calling them bars) and topped it with a healthier peanut butter frosting recipe to keep it as more of a breakfast pastry rather than a dessert! Although, with some chocolate chips and my go-to peanut butter frosting recipe, this would make one hell of a dessert as well…very similar to the chocolate chip banana cupcakes (referred to as Elvis Cupcakes) I posted about a while back!

Banana Bread Bars:

Moist, chewy and everything a brownie should be!

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats or oat flour (grind oats in food processor)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular) or sour cream
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 2 t vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9X13 pan. Mix/sift together flours, soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream sugar and butter together until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Add in yogurt or sour cream, mix until combined. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, beating after each addition. Add in bananas. Beat in dry ingredients, mixing until well combined. You do not have to fold in the dry ingredients or mix until just combined because this is not a ‘bread’ where over-mixing the batter can leave it tough and chewy, but supposed to be more of a bar that is chewy and gooey! Pour batter into pan and bake 25-30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Frosting:

  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 8 ounces vanilla yogurt (the vanilla is kind of important here if you do not want a ‘sour cream’ type of flavor coming through)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk (I used vanilla soy which worked well)

I couldn’t resist taking a few bites!

Beat peanut butter until smooth and creamy, add in yogurt, beating until combined well. Add in powdered sugar, beating until smooth with no visible clumps. Add milk one tablespoon at a time, until reach desired consistency. (I ended up using 3).

Another option would be to use plain yogurt and add in 1/3 – 1/2 cup cocoa powder to make a peanut butter chocolate version (would probably need a little more milk to reach desired consistency, and using chocolate milk would really enhance the chocolatiness)! This would go extremely well with chocolate chips in the brownie batter…next time for sure!

These turned out to be better than I thought while coming up with the recipe! I even ate an end piece (which says a whole lot)! I cut from the middle outwards, and once I reach the edges, I am done! I am not a dessert crust fan, pizza, different story, but not dessert!

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