Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Once upon a time, a girl made these bars. One bite and she was immediately cast under its spell. Her eyes rolled back into her head, she started to drool and she swore she heard a Disney theme song play every time she walked. She couldn't stop at one and almost ate the entire dish. The more she ate, the more bliss overcame her.

When all was said and done, she didn't develop superpowers, but she did gain 5 pounds.

All in her boobs.

The End.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Paula Deen - God love her.

2 cups flour
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped - ANY apple works here. Use YOUR favorite!
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick oats
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

I used dulce de leche. From a jar. Bought in a store. Done.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.

Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle evenly with streusel topping.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool.

Yields: About 24 bars

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cake Batter Pancakes

Today is Saturday...and my birthday! Happy Birthday Me! I remember being a kid and thinking how awesome it was when my birthday fell on the weekend. Ya know what? That frame of mind never went away for me. In fact, I think it's even better the older you get. No work. All play.

I'm probably one of the few women that enjoy receiving gifts with cords. I don't get too upset about things like that. I'm a pretty practical person. I don't care for jewelry, shellfish is my kryptonite, I don't drink alcohol, and I'm housebroken. I'm a cheap date overall. As long as I get a spectacular cake I don't have to make and spend the day with those I love most, I'm super happy.

Saturdays are known in our house as Pancake Saturdays. (Although, sometimes it's french toast Saturday, depending on the mood, but for the most part, pancakes take precedence). Birthdays don't alter that fact, so I was looking for a special pancake to make and found these. God bless the internet. 

They are intense. This is one of those ideas that I wish I would have thought of, but thankfully, didn't need to and can make anytime I want despite the fact. 

I think I have a new favorite birthday breakfast.

As well as every Saturday morning. 

Recipe adapted and modified from How Sweet It Is

1½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cake mix - I used Betty Crocker
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed- this is totally optional, but I put it in everything!
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk
assorted sprinkles* - I tried a few different varieties of sprinkles and found that nonpareils are the best. Jimmies made a mess and didn't look very pretty due to size and sugary sprinkles (not sanding sugar, but the sort that are the same taste and texture of candy cigarettes - if that makes ANY sense) did nothing but add crunch.

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar, ground flax seed, if using, and salt in a bowl.

Add egg, vanilla and start with 1 cup of milk when mixing and gradually add more until 2 cups, if needed. I used the 2 full cups once I revised the recipe. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; uniform in consistency.

According to How Sweet...'s post, this will depend on the brand of cake mix you use. Do a quick taste test to see if the pancakes are flavored enough for your liking. I did and found my version was high-fiving my taste buds. I figure, if I'm going to do it, I might as well go big.

This photo was using 1 cup milk. It's still pretty thick.

Preheat a frying pan - or electric griddle, (which I need, HINT HINT lover) - on medium heat. Original recipe calls for the sprinkles to be folded in. I did so and started with only a small amount, but they dissolved into the batter, changing the color, and defeated the purpose, so I opted to add them after batter was poured in the frying pan. Done and done.

Pour batter in ¼ cup measurements onto frying pan/griddle and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional minute more.

Serve with vanilla glaze below if desired. Again, I went for the gold and wasn't disappointed.

1 cup powdered sugar
½ Tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted sprinkles

Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more sugar or milk to reach desired consistency. Mix into glaze and drizzle on pancakes.

Yields: About festive 20-25 pancakes
Happy Baking!

share this on »

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chocolate Fantasy Bars

Today is the Big Game. And I am so nervous.

I can't remember the last time I was this nervous about something. Perhaps it's because I know my husband's there, his team is playing, and if they lose, I'm not around to dab the wounds. I have all the faith in the world they will win, but it's always 50-50. And a long drive back home.

I was up at 3am, baking. It's better than staring at the ceiling until my kids woke. I padded into the kitchen, rummaged through the pantry, trying to find something I could make that didn't require a mixer, but came up empty handed. I flipped through my scary folder and found this recipe stuck to an artichoke casserole. Not the actual casserole. That would be awful.

2 bars and 2 cups of tea later, I'm worse off than I started out. Nervous, jittery AND wired. On the upside, my kids think I'm hilarious and I'm dancing like I've never danced before. 

Kevin Bacon has nothing on me and Hall & Oates can preach it all day - or at least until the sugar high wears off.

It's gonna be a long day.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 box chocolate cake mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dash salt 
OPTIONAL: ¼ cup of tub frosting 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a non-stick spray. Beat cake mix, oil and egg in large bowl with electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Batter will be relatively dry. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture. 

Firmly press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. 

Recipe calls for nuts to be stirred in before lining pan, but I topped the crust with them. I like the texture better this way. 

  Melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan. 

I don't know what happened with the remaining photos or what's up with the capitalization - I promise I'm not screaming at you! Bear with me. It was 3am.

Pour milk mixture evenly over prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over top. 25 to 30 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool completely before cutting.

If you want to add frosting, you can do so as recipe calls for it, but I find these are sweet enough without it. 

Yields: About 3 dozen
Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cookies

There are four seasons in our home - Baseball, Football, Hockey, and Soccer.

Being married to the biggest sports fan alive, you have to have a lot of patience - and support. Luckily, I have some experience. I come from a family of diehard football and racing fans. I know all too well how it can go down.

You see, when you support a team, you become part of the team. Teams will disappoint. Teams will surpass expectations. Teams will make you cry tears of joy or break your heart from utter disappointment. I have seen all sides of it. Drew Barrymore's character in Fever Pitch has NOTHING on me. After Super Bowl XLII, I watched as my husband sat in silence and complete darkness for 3 hours. The New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants. I felt so helpless.

This year, I'm attending my first Big Game party since dating my husband. I know, right? My husband feels that parties interfere with the game. People stopped inviting us after a few years because we always decline. I miss out on all the greasy and fatty foods, but not this time. While lucky ducky is attending the Super Bowl and crossing that wish off his bucket list - I KNOW, RIGHT? - me and the kiddies will be partying it up with friends, juice boxes, and processed meat platters.

I'm taking along my chocolate chip cannoli cookies. These are SUPER simple to make and always a crowd pleaser.

You know, maybe separate vacations aren't such a bad idea.

Just kidding babe. Go Patriots!


24 ounces (3 cups) full fat ricotta cheese, COMPLETELY drained
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon orange zest
24-36 vanilla flavored pizzelle cookies

*These cookies should be made and eaten almost immediately or as soon as possible. They will go soft, just like proper cannoli, within a few hours.  

If you're not sure what pizzelle containers look like, here you go. This is usually how they are sold.

Drain ricotta cheese using a cheesecloth or layered paper towels. Try to extract as much liquid as possible.

It should look like this once drained - dry and clumpy.

Add sugar, vanilla, almond extract, orange zest and blend well.

Add chocolate chips.

Spread a generous amount of cheese mixture on one cookie and sandwich with another.

Easy Peasy! You can play around with these by dusting powdered sugar on top or dipping half of one cookie into melted chocolate. They are pretty versatile, but amazing as is.

Yields: About 12-18 Cannoli Cookies.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saltine Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

One word. Delicious.
Two more words. Really Simple.
Three words. I like eggs.

Yeah, I just thought I'd throw out a random fact about me.

If you're a fan of Skor or Heath bars (and even if you're not), you will thoroughly enjoy these. They are so much better than the actual candy and have something for everyone whether it's a salty, sweet, peanut butter, chocolate, crunch or chewy factor. 

Four Words. She shoots, she skors! 

Pun totally intended.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from my Aunt Ronnie's recipe box

1 package SALTED saltine crackers
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
Toppings if desired: Sprinkles, chopped nuts, chopped candy bars, etc.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Apply a thick coating of butter or cooking spray. This will help the toffee from sticking. Turst me, you do not want to skip this step.

Place saltines on tray in a single file, side by side; do not overlap crackers. Set tray aside.

Place butter and sugar in a saucepan on stove on high heat. Once mixture hits a rapid boil, allow it to do so for a full 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove from heat and immediately pour over crackers, covering completely.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of toffee, and allow them to sit for a few minutes to soften and melt. You can also put the tray in the oven for a minute or so to help the melting process along. 

Once softened, use an offset spatula or knife to spread the melted chocolate over the entire surface of the toffee in an even layer.

Melt peanut butter chips in microwave, using a heat-safe container. Drizzle over top of chocolate. I used a skewer to make pretty designs.

Sprinkle with your choice of toppings if desired. My daughter opted for some Valentine colored sprinkles.

Allow tray to cool completely. I threw mine in the fridge for about 30 minutes to harden. Once solidified, remove foil lining from tray and let set for a couple minutes. You can break apart, using your hands for a rustic look, but I prefer to use a pizza cutter for nice, uniform lines.

Keep refrigerated for best results.

Yields: About 36 servings.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Me and box cake mixes have become BFF's. Not that we weren't friends before, but I've been using them a lot more than usual. I had a hankering for some chocolate cake the other day and made one. It was delicious.

This week, I've added strawberries to my BFF circle. I want strawberries every. minute. of. the. day. They are not my usual go to fruit in the winter months, but the past few days, I can't shove them in my mouth fast enough. So I thought, why not set my two latest food cravings on a delicious date.

The outcome? My stomach wed them in holy matrimony. 

Three times. 

1 box yellow or white cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cupcakes)
1 pound FRESH strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped into small pieces*

1 package cream cheese
¼ cup butter
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 digestive biscuits or graham crackers, finely chopped

*I recommend using a hand chopper to get bite size strawberries.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 12-cup muffin tins. Combine ingredients according to back of cake mix box to make cupcake batter. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup.

Add about 1-2 tablespoons chopped strawberries to the top of batter.

Top with cake batter (roughly 2-3 tablespoons), covering strawberries completely.

Bake for suggested time frame of back of box. (I used Duncan Hines and my cupcakes took about 17 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

Pipe or smear cream cheese frosting over cooled cupcakes. Add cookie crumbs. The crumbs are essential for giving it the 'cheesecake' effect. Top with a strawberry slice.

Yields: 24 cupcakes

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Indoor S'mores

Here is a funny thing about writing a blog. You learn quickly what you like and what you don't.

I'm not a fan of graham crackers. I mean, I will eat them, but I wouldn't cry if I could never have them again. Growing up, I was never a big cheesecake fan, unless it was from Lindy's in New York City (double drool) or I made it myself. Now I know why. It had a lot to do with the graham cracker base. Lindy's has this amazing creamy textured top with a just right cracker base. Mine is the same way. It's there, but only just. Unfortunately, that's my husbands favorite part, so when I make it, it takes up half the pan. 

I was never a fan of s'mores either. I know, *shock horror*! When we would have backyard campfires (one thing I really miss about living in the sticks) I would use one of the graham crackers as a spoon to eat the chocolately marshmallow goodness off the other graham cracker that served as a fabulous makeshift plate. 

My daughter has a playdate today and asked if we could make 'saaa-mores'. I didn't think she knew what they were, but apparently she does. Never one to say no to her sweet face,  I realized we faced a problem. First, we live is Suburbia. No open fires allowed. Second, it's like -145º outside and our barbeque grill in snowed in. Third, making them in the oven doesn't seem authentic. I would feel like I was cheating. Plus, they are so messy.

I remembered snipping a recipe off the back of a cereal box not that long ago. Off to my scary recipe folder I went and found these. Indoor S'mores. 


Gimme, gimme, gimme S'more!

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from the back of a Golden Grahams Box

5 cups Golden Grahams cereal
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips
⅓ cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons milk**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup peanut butter - optional, but so good!

**Here is a trick I learned many years ago when first learning to make Crispy Treats squares - or recipes that call for marshmallow as a binder. When I used to make them, they would go hard on me once cooled or shortly after, making eating difficult. Our 72-year-old neighbor told me to add 2 tablespoons milk to the marshmallow mixture as it's melting. The treats will stay soft and gooey. I don't know how or why it works, but it always does.

In a large bowl, measure cereal. Coat an 8 or 9-inch dish with non-stick cooking spray. In saucepan, heat 4 cups marshmallows, chocolate chips, butter, milk, and peanut butter, stirring after every minute, until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in vanilla. 

Pour over cereal; quickly toss until completely coated.

Stir in 1 cup marshmallows.

Press mixture evenly in pan. I gently use the palm of my buttered hand. It gets the job done a bit easier.

Let stand uncovered at least 1 hour, or refrigerate if you prefer a firmer bar. I prefer these right out of the fridge. Store loosely covered for 2 days...if they last that long!

Yields: About 24 servings

Happy Baking!

share this on »