Category Archives: desserts

Happy Birthday, Hubby!

Can I just brag about my husband for a minute? He is just amazing! It’s like he’s my gifted toddler or something the way I go and on about how awesome he is. I must be the luckiest girl in the world because I hit the husband JACKPOT!

He’s so smart and funny. So caring and generous. And charming to boot! From 88 year old grandmothers, to 2 year old kids, to unsuspecting college girls out enjoying a night on the town with friends ;), he can make anyone feel special. His smile is infectious, his laugh is contagious. He’s got this uncanny knack of cheering me up even when I don’t feel like being cheered up.

He’s an amazingly hard worker and a rock star at his office. Must be all that solid farm work while he was growing up. No days off and no excuses. I could take a lesson from him, as I have been known to be a bit of lazy pants every now and then.

He is my hero, my best friend and the love of my life and he deserves a special treat for his 27th birthday, which he celebrated yesterday!

Once again, Eric’s birthday crept up on us exactly two weeks to the day after mine. He had a really busy day and he needed some cheering up when he got home. This dessert was just the thing. Enter BROWNIE PUDDING!

Eric gave me Ina’s Back to Basics cookbook for our anniversary. I was so excited to dive into it and this is the first recipe I’ve made. It’s so simple and completely decadent. The perfect birthday treat. Crunchy on the top, melty on the bottom, and oh so chocolatey. This would be a great dessert for a dinner party…make it ahead of time, scoop it into bowls top with ice cream and viola! Done!

The only changes I made were swapping out pure vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds – the only place around here that sells vanilla beans is the Target. And they are 8 bucks for two. And seeing how this is about as far as you can get from any kind of Foodie capital, and I just can’t see most people paying that kind of money for something in the spice aisle, I can imagine those vanilla beans have been sitting on that shelf for….oh, I don’t know…three or four years. :-p Um, no thanks. Vanilla extract will work just fine. I left out the framboise – didn’t have it on hand, wasn’t going to purchase it. And I topped it off with a little sumptin’ sumptin’ to cut the sweetness. Fan-freakin-tastic. I’m already thinking about eating more tomorrow!

Make this for your special birthday boy!!! He’ll be eternally grateful.

One year ago: Chicken Marsala – Another staple in our house. Perfect for those busy weeknights when you want something fast and healthy!

BROWNIE PUDDING (Recipe Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (I used a generous splash of pure vanilla extract – about a teaspoon and half)
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (optional – I omitted)
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  3. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.
  4. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.
  5. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate and vanilla ice cream is all well and good, but I wanted more. MORE, I tell you! I sure am greedy when it comes to my food. I want it just the way I want it or I will pout and sulk. I wanted raspberry with my chocolate this time – so I whipped up a quick and delicious raspberry sauce  to top the pudding and ice cream. Bonus – raspberries were on sale this week! Woo hoo! The tart of the raspberry sauce really helped cut the sweetness of the pudding. Adding this sauce was a match made in heaven. YUM!

FRESH RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place raspberries in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with sugar. Combine water and cornstarch and add to raspberry/sugar mixture. Stir in lemon juice. Bring to a boil and simmer until berries are reduced and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

If desired, pulse the sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour through a sieve to strain out the seeds. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

ENJOY! 🙂

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The Perfect Little Bite!

I get a big kick out of Eric’s co-workers. If someone is having a party or if there something going on that they want others to know about, they send out MS Outlook meeting notices. Quick, easy, good way to see who can come and who can’t without tracking them down. Why, yes, I accept your meeting invitation for copious amounts of wine and food on Saturday night from 6 until 11. LOL. That’s just hysterical to me.

Eric informed me of such a meeting notice earlier this week. Hooray! A chance to make up some goodies and spend a nice evening with friends. Since we were doing a “wine” theme (I say “wine” because, yes, we were drinking wine, but there was no rhyme or reason to what we were drinking, no structured tasting or anything, it’s more like lets pop a bunch of bottles and see how many we can kill over the next six hours.) so I decided a nice bite-sized dessert would go well with the spread of appetizers we chowed down on. Eric wanted me to do the Oreo truffles, but….as much as love those….they’ve been done! Time for something a little bit more sophisticated….it was a wine night, after all. Heh…

I decided to go with bite-sized, mini-cheesecakes. Easy, creamy, always a crowd pleaser! I did a lemon-scented cheesecake with a mixed berry topping. They came out perfect! Light and refreshing. The perfect little bite. Easier to transport and even easier to eat! Big hit at the party. I even kept a few behind at home so we had a couple to snack on.

I found a basic mini-cheesecake recipe and modified it some. I decided to stick with the standard graham cracker crust and thought that worked out well in my mini muffin tins. YUM!!

LEMON SCENTED MINI-CHEESECAKES WITH MIXED BERRY TOPPING (Recipe inspired by: Allrecipes.com)

Makes 48 cheesecakes

Cheescakes:

  • 1 sleeve honey graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • small splash of vanilla
  • Mixed berry topping (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 24 tin mini muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, stir with a fork until just moistened. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of crumbs into each liner and pack down (a shot glass is a useful tool for this!) Bake the crusts for about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cream together cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until well combined. Top each crust with the mixture, filling the cups almost to the top. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Top each cheesecake with about 1/2 teaspoon of the berry topping. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. Store leftovers covered in the fridge.

Topping:

  • 1 (16 oz) package frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • 1 /4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons of cornstarch
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the berries are reduced and the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool before using. Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Pie + Booze = A Winning Combo!

Christmas is almost here! Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit quicker than getting in the kitchen and baking up a storm! In order to get my hands on a recipe I never tried before, I decided to participate in a holiday sweets recipe exchange on the cooking board I frequent. How fun is that?! Tara over at Smells Like Home put the whole thing together. Thanks, Tara, for doing this!

I was so beyond excited to get a recipe in my inbox! When I opened it and found an interesting recipe for a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, I have to admit I was slightly concerned. Pecan pie has never been a top choice on my favorite desserts.

But then I got to thinking about my previous experiences with pecan pie….I think the only way I’ve ever had it was of the overly sweet, overly mushy store bought variety. I’ve never made it, I don’t think anyone I know has ever made it! Well…I can’t stereotype an entire dessert just because I didn’t care for the crappy store bought variety! I started getting excited to give this one a go. Hello….pie AND booze…yeah, count me in!

This recipe comes together lighting quick! That’s always a plus in my book. Not to mention it is absolutely delicious!!!!!! The bourbon in the background gave this pie an irresistible warmth that just screams Christmas. That, coupled with the semi-sweet chocolate, really helped cut the sweetness of the filling. And the best part?? The top got all caramelized and crunchy…almost like a creme brulee. Mmmm…

This is a keeper for sure! I’m very anxious to see who submitted this. Thank you, whoever you are!! 🙂

CHOCOLATE BOURBON PECAN PIE (Recipe Source: WC Holiday Sweet Recipe Exchange)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees F).
  2. In a small saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter or margarine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter or margarine melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Slowly pour sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set and golden. May be served warm or chilled.

ENJOY! 🙂

If you are interested in seeing the recipe I submitted, check out Amy’s blog Skinny Food by Amy to find my mom’s recipe for Chocolate Shot Cookies! 🙂

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

Whoops! I’m about three weeks late on this, aren’t I? HA!

Okay, so I’m ever so slightly behind on blogging my Thanksgiving Day dessert. It happens. I was so busy in November that I didn’t do much blogging it all so between catching up on other yumminess and blogging new yumminess from December, I just hadn’t had the time to share this absolutely to die for delicious pie!

Eric and I always travel for the holidays (speaking of…only a couple more days until we begin our great Christmas pilgrimage across the great state of Illinois to see both sets of families! Sooooo not ready! LOL!) so it’s always hard for me to make something that will survive the trip. I wanted to contribute to the family feast in some way, so I asked my mom and dad for some suggestions for a dessert I could make and bring along. Since my mom was making the pumpkin pie, my dad requested something with berries, more specifically a triple berry mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Hmmmm…well, I’m never one to back down from a challenge so off I went to find to find something to really wow him!

Well…not to toot my own horn or anything (LOL. Well, this is my blog so I’ll toot my own horn all I want, thank you very much!) but this pie I made was downright awesome. I was nervous presenting it to my family, as I had never made a pie from scratch before, but my dad absolutely loved it. I did too.  I know Dad was sad to see the last slice go. It was so good. And the best part of all was that it STAYED good for the rest of the weekend. It didn’t turn to mush after we cut into it. I don’t love pumpkin pie so this was the perfect alternate Turkey Day dessert. I will for sure be making this again. In fact, my mom tackled it just this weekend for a holiday party. I’ve yet to hear how it turned out but I’m sure it was just as good.

CITRUS-SCENTED MIXED BERRY PIE WITH OATMEAL LATTICE CRUST (Recipe Source: Bon Appetit-August 1997, as seen at epicurious.com)

‘Scuse the photo, if you will. I was much more concerned with eating this pie on Thanksgiving Day then photographing it. It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it is fabulously delicious. YUM!

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (add an extra 1/2 tbs. if you use frozen berries to make up for extra moisture)
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh raspberries (I went ahead and used 4 cups of frozen mixed berries, no need to thaw!)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberry preserves
  • 1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)

DIRECTIONS:

*The directions require a food processor for the crust. I actually don’t have a full size food processor, so I did this all by hand – cutting the butter and shortening in with two knives.  Just like grandma used to do. Yes, it can be done, although it does take forever. So use the food processor if you got it!*

Make crust:
Whisk 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water and yolk in small bowl to blend. Blend flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon peel and salt in processor 30 seconds. Add butter and shortening and process until coarse meal forms. Add yolk mixture and process using on/off turns until moist clumps form. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Flatten into disks; wrap each in plastic and chill 1 hour or up to 1 day. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out larger dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under, forming double-thick rim. Crimp, forming high-standing rim. Freeze 15 minutes.

Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue to bake until crust is set and looks dry, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Maintain oven temperature.

Roll out remaining dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

Make filling:
Mix 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, orange peel and nutmeg in large bowl. Add all berries and preserves and toss to blend.

Mound filling in crust. Place dough strips atop pie, forming lattice; trim excess. Gently press strip ends to crust. Brush lattice with glaze. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles thickly in center, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature edges with aluminum foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool. Serve pie lukewarm or at room temperature.

ENJOY! 🙂

My proud papa presents pie perfection! 🙂

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Celebrate Good Times, Come ON!

How do I celebrate good times, you ask? Why, with cheesecake, of course! Isn’t that what you celebrate with? If not, it should be….what’s not to love about cheesecake? Except for maybe the unfortunate side effects on bellies, hips, butts and thighs nationwide. That part is not so good. Meh….we’ll worry about that later.

So WHAT am I celebrating, you may ask? It’s the middle of September so no major holidays coming up. Both our birthdays are in June, so it’s not that. Our anniversary is in May, that’s long past. No one is pregnant, got a huge raise at work, or won the lottery. What’s left??

Actually, this weekend I’m celebrating me. I’m celebrating my life and all the fantastic people in it. What better way to celebrate me then to surprise myself with my favorite dessert! “Aw, Self, that’s so sweet! You shouldn’t have…really, this is too much. Oh no, I simply couldn’t…well, maybe just a couple bites. Thank you self, for being so good to myself….”

Okay, so that’s pretty silly….but honestly, for some reason, I just felt like celebrating this weekend! This year has been a little difficult for me. I went from working a ridiculous amount each week to not working at all in a matter of 24 hours. When I was let go from my previous position, I was so let down and disappointed in myself. I was probably the only one who didn’t see it coming. How embarrassing. How could I have let that happen? What the hell is wrong with me? I carried that anger and disappointment around with me all summer long. I felt like a failure. As recently as three weeks ago, I was up in the middle of the night still crying about what happened. I just couldn’t let it go, couldn’t shake all the negative things I felt about myself.

Well, I am pleased to say that I am FINALLY letting all that go. I am so thrilled that my new job is working out so well, that I can go home each night knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life that day. I made a tough day a little bit more bearable for someone right here in our community. I am so thrilled that I can look back at everything and know I’ve learned a lot about myself and what’s really important in life. Great family, good friends, and good food. Ha…well, the good food part is important to me at least. It’s comforting to know that I can confidently say I am not destined for so-called great things….six figure salaries, corner offices, my name on the door….but it’s okay because I have great people who support me no matter what. Eric and I are happy. We don’t have to go without. This little life we’ve started together just keeps getting better. And now that I am finally at peace with my life outside our home, I can concentrate on celebrating all the little things that make my life great! 🙂

So, in honor of my new found peace and happiness, I decided to celebrate by making my very first cheesecake! I LOVE cheesecake. So bad, but oh so good. I hadn’t had the courage to tackle it at home…until now! The wind was blowing and the rain was falling this weekend…the perfect weather for a fall favorite…PUMPKIN!

Now, for a long time, I was never really that thrilled with anything pumpkin. Probably because the only way I ever had it was in pie form and….eh….I don’t know…it’s just okay for me. Not awful, I’ll eat it, but it’s not my absolute favorite. I decided that it’s not the flavor that bothers me when it comes to pumpkin pie, but the texture. So I thought I might enjoy the flavors of pumpkin more if it were in cheesecake form. Eric really likes pumpkin…and he REALLY, REALLY likes cheesecake. So this pumpkin cheesecake was right up his alley.

The results: Fan-freakin’-tastic! Perfect creamy texture. Great flavor. I loved the ginger cookies in the crust. I was pleased with how it turned out. It only cracked a teeny bit on top. Not bad for my first try!

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE (Recipe Source: Joyofbaking.com)

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

1 cup (100 grams) graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cups (50 grams) finely ground ginger cookies, homemade or store bought

1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar

4 – 5 tablespoons (56 – 60 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:

2/3 cup (145 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound (454 grams) cream cheese, room temperature

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

Topping:

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Butter (or spray with a non stick spray) an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan.
  2. For Crust:  In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, finely ground ginger snap cookies, sugar, and melted butter.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared spring form pan.  Cover and refrigerate while you make the cheesecake filling.
  3. For Cheesecake:  In a separate bowl, stir to combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), on low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until creamy and smooth (1 to 2 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.
  5. Pour the filling over the chilled ginger crust and place the spring form pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.  Place a cake pan, filled halfway with hot water, on the bottom shelf of your oven to moisten the air.  Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees C (165 degrees C) and continue to bake the cheesecake for another 10 – 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed but the center is still wet and jiggles when you gently shake the pan.
  6. Meanwhile whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract and sugar.  Pour the sour cream mixture over the top of the baked cheesecake and rotate the pan slightly to evenly distribute the topping.  Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake about 8 minutes to set the topping.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Loosen the cake from the pan by running a sharp knife around the inside edge (this will help prevent the cake from cracking).  Then place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan so the cheesecake will cool slowly.  When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, preferably overnight, before serving.

Serves 10-12 people.

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