I put my family in a diabetic coma over the holidays.

Do you find yourself in charge of making something in particular for the holidays? I’m usually in charge of desserts.

No complaints here.

Since none of these calories count, here was the opportunity to really go overboard.

My mother-in-law asked if I could make something for their annual Christmas lunch where all of us get together. Does an alligator pee in a swamp? Of course.

But, what to make? The family LOVES cheesecake, and I knew there would be over 30 people at the gathering and one cheesecake won’t cut it. So what do you do in a situation like this?

Make two cheesecakes.

And a cake.

And two types of cookies.

And another cake.

What about my side of the family for a Christmas gathering? Several people on my side are weirdly picky about what they like, so something that will easily make everyone happy is the way to do it.


So, here’s the Christmas dessert lineup to stuff our families like Hansel and Gretel:


Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake:  rich, chocolate cheesecake with an Oreo crust and Oreo chunks packed throughout the cheesecake, topped with chocolate ganache, fresh whipped cream and a mini Oreo cookie.


Tiramisu Cheesecake:  coffee cheesecake with a Nilla wafer crust, ladyfingers dipped in coffee and kahlua, and a mascarpone-cream topping with sprinkled cocoa.

Boston Creme Pie:  two layers of fluffy vanilla cake filled with vanilla pastry cream, covered with chocolate ganache.

Red Velvet Cake:  two layers of moist red velvet cake smothered with cream cheese icing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies:  thick, soft, and chewy chocolate chip cookies. No further explanation needed.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Cookies:  two Ritz crackers sandwiching a thick layer of creamy peanut butter, dipped in white chocolate.

We had to make sure we saved chocolate chip cookies for Santa. He’s so needy.

The only promise I can make right now is to avoid eating any more desserts…for a couple days. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

The Cleaning Fairy leaves Crème Brulee when she visits.

Imagine going to bed at night, sleeping 8 hours straight, and waking up to a clean house. All the clutter is gone. The counters are wiped down. The living room is straightened and vacuumed. The trash cans have been emptied. The bathrooms don’t have pee everywhere. You go to open the door to the refrigerator, and sitting on the sparkling clean shelf in the middle are ramekins filled with crème brulee, ready to be torched and eaten. The Cleaning Fairy visited during the night, just like she does every week.


Reality sets in. She didn’t come by and clean the house, de-clutter anything, and most certainly didn’t leave any crème brulee. Witch.

Instead, I have to do it. When the hubaroo gets off the phone with his mom and says he’d like to take the kids out for lunch and to hang out with her for a while- “Do you want to go?” HERE is the opportunity. A quiet house (well, until the 90’s booty-shakin’ music starts blasting when they leave) to really have the chance to get things done without distraction. NO, I do NOT want to go. Love the hubaroo, kids, and even the mother-in-law, but here’s the chance to wear myself out and be somewhat happy with the end result.

De-cluttering the house is a chore that most people dread doing, especially if you tend to hoard things that really have no business being in the house. Guilty!

It took reading a book that gave some true motivation to really get things in motion. Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett got me on the wagon 9 years ago after reading it for the first time. It was on. Thirteen very large trash bags later, the house looked magical. This was B.C. (Before Children), so it was a LOT easier to maintain. The years dragged on, we got more crap, had two kids, got MORE crap, and here we are…with lots of crap.

Have you ever looked around your house and wanted to throw everything in the garbage can that was out of place? Yeah, that’s where I have been for the past month or so, but haven’t had the time (or energy) to light a fire under my butt and get things going.

So, here is the opportunity to get started. Christmas is a good motivator since there will be even more crap coming in the house when the fat man in red makes his delivery. We pay him with cookies and milk.

After going at it for a few hours and plopping down on the couch, I made a phone call to check on hubaroo and kids. After asking what he wanted for dinner, he said, “How about pizza? That’ll be simple. Oh, and some crème brulee.” You know, because pizza and crème brulee go together so well, right? (insert sarcasm here)

Since ordering pizza doesn’t take much effort, the crème brulee was definitely an option.

This and a glass of wine were my rewards for de-cluttering 10% of the house. A trip to Vegas after the whole thing is done will be sufficient. Or a new Mustang.

Since hubaroo was so gracious to remove our little freeloaders from the house for a few hours, I gave in to his dessert request. The best way to describe Crème Brulee is to call it French Pudding. Easy enough to explain that to people, and they’re more likely to eat it if they’ve never experienced the gloriousness of it before. And who doesn’t want to play with a kitchen torch?

What would you want as a reward for de-cluttering the house?

Crème Brulee Recipe

1 whole egg

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon triple sec

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

extra granulated sugar (for torching)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk together the egg, yolks, and sugar in a medium size mixing bowl. Set aside. In a microwave safe container, heat the cream until hot but not boiling. Slowly pour a stream of the cream into the bowl with the egg, yolks, and sugar, constantly whisking. Whisk in the triple sec and vanilla. Pour liquid through a wire mesh strainer into another bowl with a spout.

Pour into 4 (8 oz.) shallow* ramekins. If you have smaller ramekins, you’ll have more servings. Place in a half sheet cake pan and pour hot water into pan (BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET WATER IN THE RAMEKINS, IT’LL RUIN THE CUSTARD). Very carefully place pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, just until the custards are set (and just a tiny bit jiggly). Remove pan from oven, use spatula to transfer ramekins to a cooling rack. When they are cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

When torching for service, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon evenly on top of each custard. Torch the top using a kitchen torch.** Let set for about 1 minute before serving.

*Why shallow ramekins? The custard will cook more evenly in a shallow ramekin as opposed to a deeper one. The consistency will be the same throughout.

**I’ve heard some people say you can use the broiler in your oven if you don’t have a torch. It’s definitely not as effective as a kitchen torch, but is a way to improvise. Get yourself a kitchen torch though if you’d like, just keep it away from kids and pyromaniac husbands.


Gingerbread Rice Krispie Treats

While strolling through Wal Mart, the holiday baking section always catches my eye this time of year.  Well, I say that I was strolling, but it was more along the lines of a race-walking situation where I was headed for the finish line (being checkout).  I slowed down for a few seconds, then came to a screeching halt.  There they were…practically taunting me from the shelf…Gingerbread Marshmallows.  Was this an oasis in the dessert of shopping craziness in front of my eyes?  Clearly it was, so two bags were quickly thrown into my cart.  On I went, bolting for the self checkout aisle.  I couldn’t help but to fantasize about how satisfying some Gingerbread Rice Krispie Treats would be going into my belly.

With previous Rice Krispie Treat recipes, I’ve noticed that they’ve seemed a little dry.  Since I’m a huge fan of delicious desserts with moisture, I usually add a little more butter than what the recipe calls for…and in this case, some added cinnamon.  You’re welcome.

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Gingerbread Rice Krispie Treats Recipe

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (8 oz.) bag gingerbread marshmallows

5 cups Rice Krispies cereal

extra butter for dish

Generously rub extra butter in bottom an dup sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish, set aside.  In a large pot, melt butter on low/medium heat on stove.  Continue to cook butter, stirring constantly, until slightly browned.  Stir in cinnamon and continue to cook for another minute.  Add marshmallows, reduce heat and stir constantly until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.  Remove front heat, immediately add cereal and stir well until mixture is completely coated.  Spoon mixture into buttered dish.  Use extra butter for rubbing on hands, then press mixture evenly into dish.

Cayenne Chocolate Cookies

In all honesty, I was a little skeptical of these cookies at first.  One of my good friends told me about these cookies over the summer, which left me intrigued.  Spicy and sweet, all at the same time?  Will my taste buds revolt against me after eating these?   It’s amazing how the flavor of these cookies can send your entire mouth into a twist…  First, you get the rich sweetness of chocolate.  Next, it’s that sweet spice of cinnamon.  For the big bang, here comes the cayenne with a kick.  My mouth almost felt a weird numbness after the first one, but still wanted more.  The perfect opportunity to make these presented itself while I was preparing chicken tortilla soup and quesadillas for dinner.  It truly was the perfect ending to a Mexican style meal.

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Cayenne Chocolate Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar.  Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until mixture is fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, continue mixing at medium speed until combined.  Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, continue mixing until dough is well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Using a cookie scoop, drop dough on cookie sheet.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes, remove from oven.  Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for another 2 minutes before using a spatula to move cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Caramel Trail Mix Bars

When I’m on the go and hungry, trail mix is usually my favorite snack.  It’s the perfect combination of protein, fat and carbs, yet it also contains that wonderful sweet and salty taste that curbs cravings, and it holds me over for a couple hours.  We have a big jar of it sitting on the counter that tends to get smaller and smaller, yet sometimes I get in denial when realizing it’s me who is the only person eating it.


I like the combination so much that it had to be made into something more…like a bar with added caramel and chocolate.  Let’s keep the nutritional value but add a lot more deliciousness to it, shall we?


Nilla Wafers are a snack that I could eat all by themselves (or even better when smothered with peanut butter), so I loved the idea of making it into a crust.  The chocolate ganache melting into the crunchy sweet caramel and finished with the buttery vanilla crust is sure to satisfy all of your taste buds with one bite…but the research is more thorough with a bunch of bites.  It’s all about conducting accurate research.

Caramel Trail Mix Bars

2 cups Nilla wafers crumbs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

20 soft caramel candies

16 Rolos

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup caramel sauce (caramel ice cream topping)

2 1/2 cups trail mix (or 1/2 cup of each: cashews, almonds, peanuts, M&M’s and raisins)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine crumbs with melted butter, tossing until well combined.  Line a square 10 inch pan with foil, coat with cooking spray.  Press crumbs evenly into pan to form crust, bake for 8-10 minutes.  In a small saucepan, combine caramel candies, Rolos, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and caramel sauce.  Cook on low, stirring occasionally until melted.  Remove saucepan from heat, stir in trail mix and stir until combined, spoon evenly on top of crust.  In a microwave safe container, heat remaining heavy cream until just boiling, about 1 minute.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.  Spoon evenly over caramel mixture.  Set in refrigerator for at least one hour.  Remove by pulling out the foil, cut into squares.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream Cake

The first time I saw the original version of this cake, it was in a magazine.  It was a gorgeous, elaborate cake with fresh peaches, ice cream, pound cake and whipped cream.  It seemed like such a perfect summer treat.  Who doesn’t want ice cream cake on a regular basis, but especially during the summer?


After going over all the ingredients and process of the recipe, I decided to revise it to make it easier.  Pureeing a can of peach pie filling is much faster, especially when little ones could be tugging at your clothes wanting yet another snack…because the first 5 things they ate weren’t enough.


Combining the graham cracker mixture with the peach puree gave it more texture, and the added crunch in the cake just added a little more appeal to it.  It was such an incredibly creamy blend of the peach flavor with the softened ice cream, with that added crunch and the pound cake with whipped cream.  My mom was disappointed that we didn’t pack it up in the car the next day and bring it with us to the beach, but I honestly can’t think of how it would have survived a 3 hour trip.

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream Cake

1 peach, cut into 1/4 inch slices (optional for garnish)

1 can peach pie filling

1 sleeve graham crackers

1/2 cup chopped pecans

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 pints vanilla (or peach) ice cream, softened

cooking spray

1 box pound cake mix (plus ingredients to make cake)

8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

Bake the pound cake according to directions on the box in two 9 inch round cake pans.  Cool in pans on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, turn cakes out on cooling rack to cool completely.  Puree the peach pie filling in a blender, transfer to a bowl and freeze until thick, about 1 hour.  Lightly crush graham crackers, place in a bowl.  Add melted butter, pecans, and brown sugar, toss to coat.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.  Coat a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with plastic wrap, leaving a two inch overhang.  Place 1 cake in pan, then spread softened ice cream on top of cake into a smooth layer.  Sprinkle graham cracker and pecan mixture on top, reserve a small amount for garnish on top of cake.  Top evenly with the peach puree.  Place other cake layer on top, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer to set at least 6 hours or overnight.  Uncover the cake and invert onto a plate, remove the springform ring and the plastic wrap.  Cover the top and sides with the whipped topping, top with sliced peaches and chopped pecans as a garnish.  Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Have you ever found yourself staring at the dessert menu in a restaurant, unable to decide on just one item?  It’s a true crisis at times, especially when you want to order everything you see, but clearly your waistline doesn’t agree.  Your best option is to go out to eat with several people who have a weak spot for desserts so you can all share one, or everyone get something different to sample each one.  Numerous times I’ve been out with people who claim they don’t want dessert, but as soon as it hits the table, they’ve eaten more than I have.  How does that happen?


I was caught in this exact situation while looking over the dessert menu at a small restaurant in St. Petersburg that brings their desserts in from a bakery.  We ended up each getting our own dessert, rotating them around the table like it was a professional taste-testing event, nodding and making noises with each bite.  I couldn’t believe the amazing flavor of white chocolate with swirled raspberry filling throughout this cheesecake and an Oreo cookie crust.  We even took chunks out of my friend’s husband’s carrot cake that was so nicely packed in a to-go box.  Acting as damage control, we were preventing him from feeling guilty over eating such a large piece of cake.  Now that’s heartfelt consideration.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (modified from allrecipes.com)

20 Oreo cookies

3 tablespoons butter, melted

10 oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

frozen whipped topping, thawed (optional for serving)

In a food chopper or food processor, chop cookies into fine crumbs.  In a medium bowl, mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, heat cream just until boiling, pour over chocolate chips in a small bowl, stirring together until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar  with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate.

Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce and whipped topping.  Store in refrigerator.