Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blueberry Almond Strata

Happy Sunday Morning!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the air is warm and inviting, and I was smart enough to think ahead and make this last night. Clever girl I am.

So please excuse me while I go and enjoy with a nice cup of tea, but not before teasing you first.

My sincerest apologies.


8 cups challah or egg bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, cut into small cubes
7 eggs
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds

Prepare a 13 x 9-inch baking dish by buttering bottom and sides.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar together. Pour over bread and pat down lightly so bread absorbs egg mixture. I like to add the bread to the egg mixture and then transfer to baking dish.

Dot bread mixture with cream cheese, blueberries, and almonds. Cover baking dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, heat oven to 350°F.

Bake covered for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The time will depend on the sort of texture you would like. I baked mine for 40 minutes. I like mine to be a bit moist and dense in the middle, but slightly crunchy on the outside. If you'd like the same results, remove foil the last 15 minutes of baking.

Drizzle with maple syrup or honey. 

Yield: About 8-12 servings.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Caribbean Escape Cupcakes - Bath & Body Works Inspired

I have been a super fan of theirs since the early 90s, when I was still in high school and wet behind the ears. My sister and I would make the 25 minute trek every few weeks to our "local" and spend most of our paltry paychecks there. Anything to smell like a goddess. 
A lot has changed since then, but my visits to the shop have not.

I was in Bath and Body Works this past week, checking out their new spring line. The scents are way intoxicating and will definitely shake away some of the cobwebs leftover from Old Man Winter. In fact, when I walk into their stores, I like to take a moment to enjoy the fragrances around me with some deep cleansing breaths, letting the world go by for a couple minutes. It is so therapeutic and way cheaper than a therapist. I once had an employee come up to me and ask if I was okay. She thought I was having a anxiety attack. For real.

Although common sense stops me from drinking the product right from the bottle, can I tell you how hard it is not to stick a finger in and have a taste, just to see if it tastes like it smells? Then, the proverbial light bulb turned on. What if I were to incorporate these flavors into a cupcake? 

I chose Caribbean Escape scent as my muse. I literally washed my hands raw the other day because I didn't want to leave my little bathroom oasis. The room smelled A-MAZING.

I think these cupcakes would do the scent proud. They certainly helped curb my need to dip a finger into the bottle.

Now if I can only find a gorgeous cabana boy to serve these up to me on the beach with a few Mai-Tai's, we'd be all set. 


Cupcake recipe adapted and modified from Martha Stewart  

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup packed sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1¼ cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Lychee Custard Filling: 
Please see my Boston Cream Cupcakes for instructions on how to make custard

1½ cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
a pinch of salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold & cut into 2 pieces
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup lychee fruit, pureed - you can use fresh or from a can. Just be sure to drain all the juice from the can and pat fruit down before pureeing.

Mango Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3½ cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mango puree - you can use fresh or from a can. Just be sure to drain all the juice from can and pat fruit down before pureeing. 
Orange and yellow food coloring

To make cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2-12 cup muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix any remaining wet ingredients in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers come out clean. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

To make frosting:

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add coconut milk, vanilla, and mango puree and beat until incorporated. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Mix until frosting is fluffy. 

Pipe or spread on cupcakes. Embellish with pineapple, cherries, or any tropical fruit of your choice.

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way from Bath and Body Works to write this post and all views, opinions, and weight gain are all my own. 

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fluffernutter Sandwich Cookies *Gluten-Free!*

There is nothing like a good cookie, but there is really nothing like a good peanut butter cookie.

I am nutso about peanut butter. Ha. I know. Nuts? Peanut Butter? I get it. Seriously, I adore the stuff. I often gasp when I hear someone say they don't like peanut butter. WHA? Weirdo. A life without peanut butter cups, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter candy, or even peanut butter cashew chicken stir-fry is just not much of a life.

I was making a fluffernutter sandwich for my kidlets the other day. I love that they have embraced some of my favorite lunchtime staples as a child. As I was licking the butter knife clean, (I know, my mother would be completely horrified) I thought, 'How amazing would this be as a cookie?' Cue light bulb over head.

My little sous chef and I went to work and came up with these. The perfect little snack for a lovely afternoon and they're gluten-free to boot! No more licking knives clean and passing on habits that I, myself, would be horrified to see.

You're welcome Mom. You too hubby.


1 cup peanut butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow fluff
½ cup peanut butter*

* This is to help reduce the stickiness of the fluff. 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until incorporated.

Hand roll out 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper or silicone mats. You can leave the tops plain or make crisscross designs with the tines of a fork. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Mine took 9 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

To make filling:

Scoop out marshmallow fluff into a large bowl and stir in peanut butter. You can add more or less peanut butter to your liking, but adding it helps stabilize the fluff a bit more. Otherwise, it'll be pretty gooey and messy.

Spread over underside of one cookie and sandwich with another. 

Yield: 12-14 sandwich cookies.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie

Did you ever try something or do something once when you were a kid and are reintroduced to it again as an adult and remember every detail of when you first tried it?

This never happens to me.

I kid, I kid. This actually happens to me quite often. It could be a song or a smell and I'm suddenly transported back to another time. However, nothing does it for me more than food.

When I was 9, my family and I went to visit my aunt and uncle in New Jersey for the weekend. We only lived about an hour and a bit over the state line, but as a kid, any road trip is seen as a one hour too many in the car.

I'm not sure why we went to visit, but I have a feeling it was my Uncle T's birthday and it must have been a milestone at that. I remember his extended family were there, which would be the reason we were there as well.

My uncle is Puerto Rican and man, can he cook. I remember this was also the weekend I learned of my doomed shellfish allergy. 4 hours in the ER was not a fun place for a 9-year-old.

Anyway, when we woke on Sunday morning, my Aunt had set out a brunch to send everyone off. I couldn't stop eating these particularly awesome little pastries. I didn't know what they were and I certainly didn't have the confidence to ask. I just ate as many as my hands could grab and did so like there was no tomorrow, but I honestly never forgot about them as I grew up. I really didn't.

I had this pie a couple weeks ago at a potluck. I was like, 'Are you kidding me??' Let me tell you, I was totally transported back to that day and realized those gorgeous puffs MUST have been sopapillas. It was the weirdest feeling to FINALLY put a name to a, well, pastry.

I felt like I had finally found Waldo.

For good.

Recipe adapted and modified from

1 box refrigerated ready made pie crust - I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust.
2 (8 ounces) blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon**
1 cup granulated sugar**
½ cup butter, melted
¼ cup honey, optional

**Just know that you won't use all the cinnamon sugar mixture once it's combined.

Preheat an oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9-inch fluted tart pan with one roll of dough; set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and pure vanilla together until smooth. Place cream cheese mixture into pie shell. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly over the pie crust and cover with second pie crust. 

What I did to ensure every part of the crust is coated and the cinnamon sugar adheres, I melted the butter and honey, if using, together and brushed on with a pastry brush. 

In a small bowl, stir sugar and cinnamon together until combined. If you have a shaker, it's so much easier to get an even coat of cinnamon sugar that way. If not, a spoon is fine as well. Sprinkle until top is completely covered. 

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow to completely cool before cutting. You can drizzle melted chocolate on top for an extra special treat.

Yields: 8-12 servings.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mini Cake Batter Doughnuts

I love garage sales. Rummaging through other people's junk treasures and finding a bunch of stuff you don't really need, but just have to have?

It's amazing the things you can find for a pocketful of change. A friend's Mom from back home once furnished an entire apartment with garage sale finds. It was beautiful and cost her only $75!

I love them and couldn't imagine a better way to spend an early Saturday morning.

My mother-in-law is more of a fanatic than I am. If you're looking for something, she will ALWAYS find it. And I mean, A-L-W-A-Y-S. I remember when someone needed the back of a clock from a certain make, several years ago. Would you believe she found it like 2 weeks later? We're talking a needle in very big haystack.

I've had a doughnut pan on my 'to get' list for a few weeks now. I didn't say anything about it as I knew I would be going shopping stateside within the next few weeks and could most likely find one there. Guess who comes over yesterday with one - in pristine condition nonetheless? Can she read minds now? It was pretty spectacular. She grabbed it in a 'fill a bag for a dollar' at a church rummage sale. How awesome is that?

Even more awesome is that I didn't have to wait to get a pan anymore to make these lovely treats.

God bless garage sales. And those who throw away money so I don't have to.

Recipe adapted and modified from Tasty Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cake mix - I used Betty Crocker
¼ cup vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sprinkles

½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons mil

To make doughnuts:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Lightly spray doughnut pan with no stick spray; set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour, cake mix, vanilla pudding, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 

Stir in milk, egg, vanilla, and butter. Mix well to combine. Stir in sprinkles. 

Scrape batter into large ziploc bag, snip corner, and squeeze batter into prepared pan, filling about ¾'s of the way. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until doughnuts spring back when touched. Since I have a mini doughnut pan, mine took 8 minutes exactly. 

Cool completely before adding glaze. 

To make cream cheese glaze:

Beat cream cheese until creamy. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Stir in milk and vanilla. You can add more milk if need be to get desired consistency. 

Yields: 12 large or 24 mini doughnuts.    

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Junk Food Cupcakes

This past weekend, I had a crazy idea.

Let me start by saying that many of my ideas are usually a bit harebrained. They don't always turn out as I had planned, but I still hope for the best. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I wondered what would happen if I were to incorporate some favorite snack foods into a cupcake. I'm talking chocolate, peanut butter, pretzels, potato chips, candy, and soda. It probably doesn't sound very appetizing together as a whole and something the producers of Survivor or Big Brother would whiz in a blender and serve up to the contestants as a food challenge.

However, I gave it a go. I gave one to my MIL to try. She really enjoyed it. She told me she would swear if there weren't children around. This coming from a woman who doesn't swear. Or eat many sweets.

So sit back, nosh a cupcake, and enjoy the show.

The diet can wait until tomorrow.


1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix - I used Betty Crocker.
3 eggs
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup cola - I used Coca-Cola
¼ cup buttermilk or sour cream
2 cups crushed potato chips

2 cups pretzels, chopped finely
1 cup butter, melted

1 bag of Rolos or peanut butter cups. I suggest freezing them prior to using so the candy doesn't melt into the cupcake while baking.

3 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ - ½ cup heavy cream
4 ounces (½ cup) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 12 cup muffin tins with liners. Set aside.  

Using a food processor, grind pretzels to make 2 cups. In a small bowl, combine pretzels and butter. Place a teaspoon or so (just to cover) into the bottoms of cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, and butter and beat. Slowly add in cola and buttermilk and blend to combine, ensuring everything is well incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into liners on top of pretzels. Place a Rolo or peanut butter cup in the middle and cover.

 Sprinkle crushed potato chips over top.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Mine took 18 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire racks to completely cool.

To make frosting:

In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar and peanut butter until creamy. Add vanilla, cream, and chocolate and beat until smooth.

Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes. I topped with a chocolate covered potato chip and very fine pretzel crumbs.

Yields: 24 Cupcakes.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade Do-Si-Dos

Girl Scout cookie season is a season I look forward to most of all. 

I love when the girls come door to door selling them or a friend's daughter and family members come running to me, knowing full well that their child will make their quota on me and me alone. It's also the only time I would fork out $5 for a box of cookies.

Unfortunately in Canada, they don't have the delectable selection they do back home. USA has 12. Canada has 3. I guess that could be a good thing in my case. Cookie addicts, like myself, do not need any more reason to eat their weight in them.

I had a hankering for some of my most favorite Girl Scout Cookies. The Do-si-dos. Since they aren't available here , I took matters into my own hands and made some. 

These are a very nice substitute and just as dangerous. 

To body parts everywhere.


1 pouch (454g) oatmeal cookie mix
½ cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

¾ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar

To make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, egg and water. Beat until all ingredients are well combined. Slowly add cookie mix and mix until incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, scoop out dough and place on tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for several minutes and transfer cookie onto a wire rack.

To make filling:

In a small bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar until well blended. For each sandwich cookie, spread about 1 tablespoon filling on the underside of 1 cookie. Top with another. Press together lightly, twisting slightly. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Yields: 12 sandwich cookies.

Happy Baking!

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