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.

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

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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.

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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.

WAKE UP!!!

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.

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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

Boston Creme Mini Tarts

Have you ever been sucked into the bakery section of a grocery store?  When you go into a good one, it’s like being stuck in a black hole of desserts that you don’t want to escape from without at least a souvenir from your traumatic experience.  The mini tarts are included in some of these stores, and it’s the variety of colors that draw you in.  I tend to linger a little longer than I should, and always feel like it’s a trick question when someone behind the counter asks, “Can I help you?”  Ugh.  There is no help for me at this point, and I hate you for asking.  I’ll take a dozen, please.

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One day, I stumbled across some Boston Crème Mini Tarts.  A mini tart shell filled with vanilla pastry crème, topped with chocolate ganache and whipped topping.  The black hole suddenly got deeper and more violent.  I felt like I was swimming in a sea of vanilla pastry crème and chocolate ganache, eating my way out of it.  Don’t even bother throwing me a life jacket because I’d rather drown.  Unfortunately, they were made specifically for a private party that had ordered them as a specialty, and they weren’t sold in the store.  I wanted to punch the lady when she told me I couldn’t have them.  Fine then, I’ll just go home and make them myself…that’ll show her.  Although if that happens again, I should call Ronda Rousey for some help.

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There is a shortcut way of making these, but after I made a tart shell from scratch in culinary school, I was hooked on the buttery sweetness.  Even though it’s more time consuming and cuts into my Pinterest stalking, the taste is definitely worth the effort.  Sorry, Pinterest.  You lose.

**SHORTCUT RECIPE**

Not everyone wants or can take the time and effort to make mini tart shells from scratch, and I don’t blame them!  It is more time consuming…  But have no fear…  You can purchase pre-made mini tart shells!  You may have to do some research online to see what stores in your area sells them, or you can purchase them online and have them shipped to your house.  Bam.  Or, you can use mini phyllo shells, found in the freezer section of most grocery stores, just follow the baking instructions.  Just keep in mind that it’s MUCH cheaper to make the shells yourself…and tastier, too.

Imitation “Pastry Crème”

1 box instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 oz. frozen whipped topping (thawed)

Whisk together milk, vanilla and pudding mix, cover, set in refrigerator for 5 minutes.  Stir in whipped topping, store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Ganache

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.

Whipped Topping

Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

Putting It All Together

Here’s the fun part (well, besides shoving these little bad boys into your mouth).  Using a pastry bag (or ziplock bag, or a spoon), pipe the pastry crème into the cooled tart shells.  Don’t pile it up too high though, you still gotta save room for that chocolate ganache.  It’s not Boston Crème without the chocolate ganache.  Don’t cheat yourself out of that.

**FROM SCRATCH RECIPE**

Sweet Tartlet Shell Recipe (modified from epicurious.com)

2 1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large egg yolks

6 tablespoons ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut butter into small chunks, place in a small mixing bowl and back in the refrigerator. In a large mixing bowl (or food processor), whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add cold butter.  Using a pastry tool (or pulsing if in food processor),cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl whisk together yolks, ice water, and vanilla until combined well and add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork or pulsing until incorporated. Form dough into a ball and divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and flatten to form disks. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap, chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Form 1 dough disk into twenty-four 1-inch balls, keeping remaining disk wrapped and chilled. Press dough balls into bottoms and up sides of mini muffin pan (about 1 3/4 inches across top and 1 inch deep) using a tart press. Prick bottoms of shells with a wooden pick. Chill shells 15 minutes, or until firm. Bake shells in middle of oven 12 minutes, or until golden, and cool in cups on cooling racks.

Pastry Crème Recipe (modified from allrecipes.com)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup white sugar

2 egg yolks

1 egg

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg.  Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch, then whisk them into the egg until smooth.  When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle 1/2 cup into the bowl in a thin stream while whisking constantly so that you do not cook the eggs.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a bowl, stirring constantly so the eggs don’t curdle or scorch on the bottom.  When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in.  Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled before using.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.

Whipped Cream (modified from food.com)

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form, using electric mixer.  Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form.  Make sure not to over-beat, cream will become lumpy.  People don’t like cellulite on their bodies, so they certainly won’t want it in their pastries.

Putting It All Together

Here’s the fun part (well, besides shoving these little bad boys into your mouth).  Using a pastry bag (or ziplock bag, or a spoon), pipe the pastry crème into the cooled tart shells.  Don’t pile it up too high though, you still gotta save room for that chocolate ganache.

Snickerdoodles

The day I made these cookies was also the day I realized it was time to start enforcing a little privacy from my 4 year old.  Remember the days of taking an uninterrupted shower for longer than five minutes?  I found myself locking the door after my daughter became curious with questions.  Now I’ve become a skilled ninja going from the bathroom to the bedroom after a shower…unlocking and slowly opening the bathroom door, peeking around the corner, tiptoeing across the hall, then diving on the bed while humming the Mission Impossible tune.

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My husband used to buy these cookies by the dozen from the store, and it was always one of those circumstances when I became immediately excited…then frustrated because I knew I’d end up eating half a dozen of them…immediately.  Who could resist the soft, buttery goodness of those cookies topped with the perfect balance of cinnamon and sugar?  I sure couldn’t, and I’m starting to think it may be a super power to avoid these if at all possible.

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These days, it’s me providing our home with these cookies…and my husband is now the one who is grumbling about how much he loves the cookies while he shoves three in his mouth.  Oh, how the tables have turned.

Snickerdoodles (recipe modified from food.com)

2 sticks butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter, shortening, and sugar at medium speed until creamy using electric mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla, continue beating until blended.  In a smaller mixing bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture while continuing to mix at medium speed.  Set cookie dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  In a small dish, stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Using a cookie scoop to measure out dough, roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture, then place on baking stone or cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a light golden color.  Remove from oven, leave cookies on stone or sheet for another 2 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack lined with paper towels (this keeps the cookies from developing indentions from the cooling rack) to cool using a cookie spatula.  Store in airtight container.

Oreo Delight

The original recipe for this particular dessert is my Oreo Trifle that I put together a long time ago.  Since then, it’s been a huge hit…but I also wanted to create an easier recipe using the same ingredients as the trifle, only it’s more like a pie.  So, you could say this is the sister recipe of the original.

oreo brownie pie

This past New Year’s Eve, I whipped up one of these and took it over to my brother’s house for a family gathering to stuff our faces and shoot fireworks.  Neither one of my brothers had tried this particular dessert before, but I knew they would like it because of all the layers of deliciousness going on with it.  After wolfing down his first piece, my oldest brother said, “You really hit a home run with this one,” and went back for another “taste” test.  Shortly after that, my other brother was scraping his plate and mumbling how awesome it was before grabbing another piece.  And to top it all off, my husband later told me, “I think that might be my favorite dessert so far.”  Needless to say, this passed the dude test.  Dude approved.

Oreo Delight Recipe:

1 box dark chocolate brownie mix (plus ingredients to make; oil, eggs and water)

1 package Oreo cookies

1 (3-4 oz.) box instant devil’s food pudding mix

3 cups milk, divided

1 (8 oz.) container whipped topping, thawed

Bake brownies according to package directions in a 9×13 inch baking dish, cool completely.  Whisk pudding mix with 2 cups of milk until combined, place in refrigerator until ready to use.  After brownie has cooled, spoon pudding on top of brownie in an even layer.  With Oreo cookies and remaining 1 cup of milk, dip each cookie in milk, then break into chunks and put on top of pudding layer.  Reserve 2 cookies for topping.  After cookie layer is finished, spread container of whipped topping on top of Oreo layer.  Break up remaining cookies and sprinkle on top of the whipped topping as a garnish.  Let dessert set in fridge for 2-4 hours before serving.  Store in refrigerator.

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies

In all honesty, I’m a little picky when it comes to citrus flavors.  I like lemons, but there are certain lemon desserts and other dishes that I keep at arm’s length… but lemon poppyseed is a combination that I usually give a bear hug.  I catch myself lingering in the bakery at the store when I spot the muffins to see if they have any of these flavor.  Sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t have the large ones that I’m looking for.  In fact, last time I pooched my lower lip out when I saw there weren’t any and moved on…only to buy ingredients to make my own.

lemon poppyseed

My husband recently told me that he likes flatter cookies that are still soft.  I told him that he’s nuts, because I’m a huge fan of fluffy cookies myself…but after a few batches of making different types of cookies and making them slightly thinner, I can certainly see the appeal (although I still love fluffy cookies).  I did make a boo boo the first time around with these, though.  I got the brilliant idea of dipping the cookie dough in freshly squeezed lemon juice before the sugar, then placing on the baking pan.  Well, the extra juice from the lemon on top of the cookie dough really changed the consistency of the cookies.  They were almost paper thin, and spread out all over the place.  Lesson learned!  The last dozen of the batch, I just rolled them in sugar before baking…and the consistency was just right.  While explaining these to my husband through text message, the best way I could think of to explain to him was that these were like lemon sugar cookies…with a bunch of little black dots.

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies Recipe:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

grated lemon peel (from 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

extra sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, using electric mixer.  Add eggs, grated lemon peel and vanilla, continue beating.  In another small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and poppyseeds.  Gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until combined.  Using a cookie scoop to measure out dough, roll in extra sugar.  Place on baking sheet, and baking for 10-12 minutes, or until tops are a very light golden color.  Remove from oven, transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight container.

 

Gingerbread Trifle

Tis the season for trifles…and gingerbread!  What better way to celebrate the holidays by combining these two gems together?  Exactly my thoughts as well.  After making the upside down apple gingerbread cake, I decided to utilize it in a trifle recipe.  My husband and I were just discussing last night how neither one of us really grew up eating gingerbread type desserts.  Last year when I made the soft gingerbread cookies for the first time, I fell hard for them.  Such a warm flavor all rolled in with the moist yumminess of it all.

gingerbread trifle

After making one round of this trifle experimentation, I decided to change a couple of things about the recipe.  Originally, I had double the amount of cream cheese, and only 16 oz. of cool whip.  After using my family as guinea pigs, we all agreed that it needed more of a creamy texture.  So, in place of the extra 8 ounces of cream cheese, I changed it to an extra amount of cool whip.  The caramel sauce added even more moisture to the cake, along with some added flavor.

For the Gingerbread Cake:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup applesauce

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.  Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Blend into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the hot water, pour into greased 9×13 inch cake pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes in oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and cake is slightly pulling away from edges of pan.  Cool for 10-15 minutes in pan before turning out onto cooling rack to cool completely before putting together in trifle dish.

For the Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

24 oz. cool whip

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup caramel sauce, divided (you can use homemade sauce or ice cream topping)

Divide gingerbread cake into three sections, reserving a very small amount of crumbs for topping.  In large bowl using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and cinnamon until well blended.  Gradually add cool whip, continue mixing until smooth.  Crumble first section into a trifle bowl, then drizzle with 1/3 cup caramel sauce.  Spoon 1/3 of cream cheese and cool whip mixture on top of cake and caramel sauce.  Repeat layering two more times, then top with a small amount of cream cheese/cool whip mixture, gingerbread cake crumbs, and drizzle with a little bit of caramel sauce.  Place in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight, store in refrigerator.

Crock Pot Chocolate Candy

With the holidays quickly approaching, this is actually a recipe that I’ve seen floating around in several different places.  And naturally, since it’s floating around in several different places, there are several different recipes for it.  I’ve seen different types of chocolate, different nuts, added coconut, all kinds of stuff.  Well, I kept this batch really simple, and including things that I know my family would love.

crock pot chocolate candy

The original recipe I saw had twice the amount of ingredients, which makes a TON of these little guys.  This is a smaller batch than the original recipe I saw, and it still made over 50 of them…and I made them about the size of a standard cookie.  If you don’t have a crock pot, no need to worry!  You can melt the chocolates in a large, microwaveable bowl in increments of 45 seconds, stirring in between each one until all of the chocolates are melted, then stir in the peanuts and distribute them to wax or parchment paper.  Or, if you even prefer to melt your chocolate on the stove, you can do that as well on low heat, and proceed as usual.  What was so easy about this recipe was being able to walk away from it, not having to stand by the whole time.  So, whichever way you prefer to make it, go for it!

Crock Pot Chocolate Candy Recipe:

1 lb. almond bark white chocolate

12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

12 oz. peanut butter chips

16 oz. dry roasted peanuts

Chop up almond bark, and combine all ingredients in crock pot on low.  Cover and cook for one hour, stir mixture.  Stir every 5-10 minutes after first hour until chocolate is melted and peanuts are coated.  Spoon clusters on to wax or parchment paper to set.  Store in airtight container at room temperature (these do not need to be refrigerated, and will actually cause them to have a whitish film if they are stored in the fridge).

Chocolate Truffle Mini Tarts

I love mini tarts…they’re just so cute.  They’re finger sized foods, similar to cookies, but they’re pretty, cute, and delicious.  Did I mention they’re cute?  I’ve had several types of mini tarts over the years, and decided to make some super chocolatey tarts at home.  Just for the heck of it, because that’s just what I do.  Mini tarts are great for parties and other occasions where people can just grab one and go…but in this case, they may come back for seconds…or thirds…

chocolate truffle tarts

If you’re looking for a small chocolate dessert, look no further.  This is a great combination of chocolate cookies and chocolate truffles, all rolled together in one delicious recipe.  I came across a recipe in a holiday dessert catalog, but made a few minor changes to this particular recipe.  During the baking process, my chocolate-loving husband must have asked me three or four times if they were done yet.  I’m looking forward to trying these out on my other chocolate-loving family members.

For the Tarts:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, using electric mixer.  Add egg and vanilla, continue mixing.  Gradually add remaining dry ingredients until mixture is well combined.  Grease a mini muffin pan, and scoop 1 tablespoon of dough into each cavity.  Using a tart press, press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of each cavity.  Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven and press bottom of dough down again in each cavity.  Carefully remove to cooling rack and cool completely.  This batch makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

For the Filling:

12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup butter

mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan, cook on low/medium heat.  Stir occasionally until chocolate and butter are melted, and mixture is smooth.  Transfer to a bowl to cool for about 20 minutes.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of mixture into each tart, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles as a garnish.  Place in refrigerator for truffle filling to set.  Store in airtight container.

Upside Down Apple Gingerbread Cake

For Fall recipes, I’m constantly on the lookout for something different that looks delicious.  Although there are still a few more pumpkin recipes I’d like to try out, this was next on the to-do list…and couldn’t wait to give this particular recipe a shot.  I did some research on different recipes concerning gingerbread cakes, and this seemed to be the highest rated recipe for gingerbread cake (after the modifications made by users who had made it before).  The gingerbread cake itself it delicious at any time, but with the apples on top, it’s best while served warm.

upside down apple gingerbread

I did decide that the next time I make this cake though, it’ll either be served just as a gingerbread cake topped with powdered sugar and whipped topping, or even make it as a layered cake with cream cheese frosting.  The mix of spices in this cake are incredible, and the moist fluffiness makes it even better.  The great thing about this cake is that it could even be served as dessert or breakfast!

For the Topping:

2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 8 pieces (per apple)

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

Pour melted butter into 10 inch round cake pan.  Sprinkle brown sugar on top, then place apples in a single layer.  Grease sides of pan with cooking spray.

For the Cake:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup applesauce

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.  Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Blend into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the hot water, pour into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour in oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Loosen edges with knife, then cool for 10-15 minutes in pan before turning out on plate.  Best served warm!

White Chocolate Almond Cookies

When it comes to cookies that have nuts in them, personally I’m a big fan.  Not everyone is a big fan of nuts in their cookies and desserts, but one thing I have noticed is that it’s been almost impossible to find someone that does NOT like almond extract flavoring…even the people who don’t like almonds or nuts in general.

white chocolate almond

I’ve made white chocolate macademia nut cookies, and those were fantastic…but in all honesty, these just might be my new favorite cookie.  In fact, I believe three batches of these cookies were made in less than two weeks, and each time I was fussed at and complimented at the same time.  Fussed at mainly because people couldn’t stop eating them and called me a bad influence.  Guilty as charged, because honestly I can’t stop eating these little guys when they’re in my house, too…

White Chocolate Almond Cookies Recipe:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag white chocolate chips

1 cup almonds (toasted and roughly chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter, white and brown sugar together using electric mixer.  Add eggs, almond extract and vanilla, beat until combined.  Add flour, salt and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in white chocolate chips and almonds.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out dough and distribute on baking sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes, until tops of cookies are a very light brown.  Cool completely on cooling racks, store in airtight container.

**If you’re toasting your own almonds, it’s very simple…  Just lay them out on a baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool before chopping into chunks.