Friday, November 16, 2012

Nutella Pockets



Holy Cow, I just realized that Thanksgiving is next week.  Seriously, I just checked the calendar and sure enough, next week.  If you are looking for a quick and easy Thanksgiving Day contribution to the dessert table, these little Nutella pockets are just the thing.  In a little over 30 minutes, these were put together and out of the oven.  I saw these on Pinterest (of course) and chased the link to Things That Sparkle, but it appears that she found these on Pinterest too, so I am honestly not sure where they came from originally.

Nutella Pockets

2 tubes Pilsbury Crescent Rolls (I like Pilsbury, but use whatever brand you like)
1/2 small jar Nutella (give or take)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Unroll crescent rolls.  Take each triangle and cut in half.  Plop about 1/4 teaspoon or a tad more into each crescent roll.  Roll up the crescent roll and seal the edges.  In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar.  Roll the pockets in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Place on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turtle Bars




Leave it to a church lady to take something as complicated as a turtle and turn it into a tasty bar cookie.  Church ladies are the queens of the bar cookie and this one is no exception.  All of the flavor of a turtle in about 1/10 of the time.  My only complaint is that the bars were a bit challenging to cut.  Were I to make them again, I would use pecan pieces instead of whole pecan halves and I would reduce the baking time by a few minutes.  I have reflected these changes in the recipe below.

Turtle Bars adapted from the WHFM Cookbook

Crust 
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Mix together butter, brown sugar and flour.  Press into the bottom of an greased 9x13" pan.  Sprinkle pecans over the crust

Don't do what I did, chop up your pecans for easier cutting in the end


Caramel Layer
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
 In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook butter and brown sugar.  Stir constantly until boiling.  Allow to boil for about 1 minute.  Pour  over crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Nothing like pecans bathed in caramel


Topping
  • 1 12 ounce package chocolate chips
 When bars come out of the oven, sprinkle immediately with chocolate chips.   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies



Back in the days of grade school, making friends was a piece of cake.  You just look at the kid next to you in class and say "wanna play?"  Even in college, it sort of the same thing.  You just knocked on the door of the room next to yours and say, "wanna go get some food?"  Then you grow up and get married and it seems so hard to meet people that both of you like.

Dave and I have been fortunate enough to find a few such couples that we absolutely love to hang out with.  One of these couples is welcoming a daughter into their lives in December and so a few of us hosted a baby shower at our house last weekend.  My friend Denise proposed mini cupcakes because they are the perfect amount of frosting to cake and they are easy to eat.  How right she is.  I make these mini lemon meringue pies to go with the mini cupcakes.  They are, in my humble opinion, almost the perfect way to eat lemon meringue pie.  No filling squishing out all over after you cut the pie and no fork required. 

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

makes about 24 mini pies

Crust
1 9 inch store bought (or homemade) pie crust dough

Lemon Curd adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Cupcakes
8 egg yolks
2 full eggs
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups lemon juice (I like to use Real Lemon bottled lemon juice because I am lazy and don't like to squeeze lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 2 lemons

In a medium large saucepan mix together sugar and egg yolks.  Add in lemon juice and cook over medium heat until thick and coats the back of the spoon.  Do not let it boil if you can help it, it will make the eggs in the curd curdle.  Remove from heat.  Strain the curd through a mesh strainer.  Stir in vanilla and lemon zest.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the curd.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Swiss Meringue adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Cupcakes
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Over a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until mixture reaches at least 145 degrees.  Using the whisk attachment of the stand mixture, beat the egg white and sugar mixture until stiff peaks form.  Add in vanilla and beat to combine.  Don't be concerned if this takes a long time.  The egg whites are cooling as they are being beaten.

To assemble the pies:
Unroll pie crust.  Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out circles of pie crust about 3 inches in diameter (this size will vary depending on the size of your mini cupcake pan).  If you do not have a circular cookie cutter, you can use a drinking glass about that size.  You may need to reroll the pie crust to get more circles.  Tuck the circles of dough into your mini muffin pan.  Prick the dough on the bottom and sides with a fork.  Bake crusts at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, pop crusts out of pan.  It will be easier to take them out now than when your whole pie is assembled.  Spoon lemon curd into the pie shells.  Pipe meringue on top of the lemon curd.  I used a #21 Wilton tip.  Using a creme brulee torch, lightly go over the meringue to brown it.  If you do not have a creme brulee torch, you can put the pies on a cookie sheet and stick them in the oven under the boiler for like a minute.  Pay very close attention if you do this.  I had a friend set her whole lemon meringue pie on fire using this method.




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mini Cupcakes with Rose Toppers


As it turns out, a five petal Wilton rose is the perfect topper for a mini cupcake.  Here is a tutorial from Wilton about how to make them.

Cream Cheese Buttercream
1 8 ounce block cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat together cream cheese and butter.  Add in vanilla and beat to combine.  Slowly add in powdered sugar and beat to combine.  Color as desired.  To pipe flowers, it is best to leave the icing on the thicker side.  You may need to add a tablespoon or 2 of water to thin it out to piping consistency.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giving Thanks and a Little Giveaway!

The holidays are starting to sneak up on us.  The calendar flipped to November and all of the sudden it's Christmas in the store, the weather is cold and it is dark outside at 4:30 (at least here in Illinois).  I already have cookies and candies bookmarked that I want to try for this holiday season.  It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of it all.

I like to take a little time out each year and write letters in November to those I am especially thankful for.  Those people who day in and day out keep me sane and who I cannot imagine living without.  I started doing this a few years ago, when I lost some family members and realized that I never took the opportunity to tell them that I loved them, that I cared about them, that they had a profound impact on my life.

The first year I wrote these letters, I was surprised about how challenging it was to pour my grateful heart out onto paper, even to those closest to me.  My list of recipients was short, not because I am not thankful for many, but because these letters were hard to write.  But, each year it gets a bit easier and my list gets a bit longer.  I have become very fond of this tradition I have started for myself and each year I have a different card designed and made for me.  For the first couple years it was a kind co-worker who made cards on the side and this year I had the above cards made by a dear friend.

As a thanks to you wonderful readers, I am giving away 5 of these super cute cards designed and made by my sweet friend Denise so that you can send a few thankful letters to your loved ones.  To enter: leave a comment about who you are thankful for by November 9th, 2012 at midnight central time.

*This giveaway is sponsored by me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Picaken



Picaken.  Not quite as famous as the turducken, but certainly a sight to behold.  This being so close to Halloween, I felt it was the perfect time to give it a whirl, considering it is a Frankenstein like creation.  You literally stuff a cake with a pie.  Now, wanting to be seasonal and all, I chose apple pie and spice cake, pushing it over the top with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting.  The frosting is important.  It helps hide the flaws bound to happen by baking a pie in a cake.

I heard about this conglomeration of baked goods when Jamie The Very Worst Missionary posted about it almost forever ago and I hadn't heard much about it since then. But then, my very best friend Mandy had a costume party and was making a bacon explosion.  Now if there ever was a dessert screaming to go with a meat dish called bacon explosion, this is it.  Since it was my first time and because I actually thought it would taste awful, I used from a box everything (except the frosting, really, from scratch frosting is the way to go).


How did it taste.  Surprisingly, not too bad.  Probably not something I am going to make every weekend, but totally worth a shot.


 

Piecaken

Pie
1 9 inch double pie crust
2 large cans pie filling

 Unroll bottom pie crust into 9 inch pie pan.  Pour in filing.  Roll top crust over filling and pinch edges to seal.  Poke holes in the top for the steam to escape.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Cake
1 box spice cake
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups water (I left out the oil because, well really, did we need more fat)?
Basically make cake batter according to the box directions.  I used a Duncan Hines spice cake mix and I beat together the cake mix, water, and eggs for 2 minutes.  Take pie and flip over into a greased 10 inch cake pan.  I used a spring form pan so that I would not have to flip the final cake out of the pan.  Fill the cake pan with the pie in the bottom with the cake batter.  I filled the pan 3/4 full and had a bit of cake batter left over.  That is ok, make a few cupcakes or something.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until done.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Buttercream
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
water to thin frosting as desired

Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add in vanilla.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
*If you are going to color your icing, put the food coloring in before you thin the frosting because the food coloring will thin the icing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nutter Butter Eyeball Cookies




I am apparently addicted to Nutter Butter Cookies dipped in white chocolate.  There is something so satisfying about a store bought cookie that has been dressed up a bit.  I like, when using store bought cookies, to have the decorations be easy.  If I wanted complicated, I would make peanut butter sandwich cookies from scratch and then make my own peanut butter.  No, I want cute and tasty in a matter of minutes.  These cookies took longer to melt the chocolate then to decorate (which I always find melting chocolate soooo annoying with the microwave for 15 seconds, stir lather, rinse repeat).  These eyeball cookies were born out of necessity since I ran out of white Candy Melts when making my Nutter Butter Ghosts.  While they are not going to win any awards, I do find them amusing and that is the point of a Halloween treat.

Nutter Butter Eyeballs

1 package Nutter Butter sandwich cookies
2 packages purple Wilton Candy Melts
1 package Wilton Candy Eyes
1 teaspoon shortening (optional-to thin out the chocolate a bit)

Pour Candy Melts in a microwave safe bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon shortening.  Melt Candy Melts according to package directions for microwave.  Dip Nutter Butter's in candy melts and place on wax paper to dry.  While the Candy Melts are still wet, press Candy Eyes into the chocolate.  Allow to dry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nutter Butter Ghosts



Something fast, easy and tasty for Halloween.

Nutter Butter Ghosts
1 package Nutter Butter sandwich cookies
2 packages white Wilton Candy Melts
1 tube black piping gel
1 teaspoon shortening (optional)

Melt candy melts according to package directions.  I like my melted chocolate a bit thinner so I add in a teaspoon of shortening in the beginning before I melt the candy.

Dip Nutter Butters in the Candy Melts.  Lay on wax paper and allow to dry (about 15 minutes).  Pipe small dots for eyes and a larger dot for a mouth.

Variation: Use mini chocolate chips for eyes and a larger (like a Ghirardelli) chocolate chip for the mouth.

Beth's Nutter Butter Skulls are pretty dang cute too!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Savory Sunday-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds



This past weekend, my friend Mandy had a pumpkin carving party at her house.  I haven't carved a pumpkin in eons, but it was really fun!  She graciously picked through all of the pumpkin goo to save the seeds for me to roast.  What a good friend!



Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, thoroughly rinsed of their pumpkin guts
1 tablespoon garlic power
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a sheet of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet, preferably with sides (a jelly roll pan), it will keep the seeds from zinging off into the bottom of your oven.  In a medium sized bowl, mix together pumpkin seeds, olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.  Spread seeds onto cookie sheet.  Bake for about 35 minutes, occasionally stirring the seeds.  You want the seeds to be totally dried out and crunchy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Skinny Saturday-Is it a muffin or a cupcake?


For me, October kicks off the beginning of the holiday baking season.  The weather has finally cooled down to a temperature where you can tolerate turning on the oven and cute, cozy recipes are everywhere you look.  I decided to start Skinny Saturday to offer a treat with a few less calories then my normal fare.  Don't get me wrong, what I present on this blog are sweets and treats.  I am not a nutritionist or anything close, just a girl who sometimes needs a tasty treat that won't set her back a days worth of calories.

These muffins couldn't be easier, they are just two ingredients.  One of the ingredients being yellow cake mix makes one wonder if these are actually muffins and not cupcakes, but, I didn't frost them so I fell they fall firmly in the muffin camp.  I first saw these on Pinterest and after clicking a million times, the original recipe is from The Big Red Kitchen (who, for the record, believes it is cake) and makes a tasty looking apple cider glaze to go with. 


Pumpkin Muffins (or Cupcakes)

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (I used Pilsbury)
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin (I used Libby's)

Dump ingredients in bowl.  Scoop large tablespoons full into muffin pan prepared with cupcake wrappers.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then pull out of pan and place on cooling rack to finish cooling.  Enjoy.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Margaret McIntyre's Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

 
Do you ever have those days where you look in your cupboard and think, "Why the heck do I have three cans of cherry pie filling?"  This happens to me on a startlingly frequent basis.  I am at the grocery store and I will spy a specialty ingredient and think, "Yes, I am going right home and whipping up (insert random recipe here) and it will be amazing!"  But, I get home and the laundry needs doing or the dishes need washing or I don't have the seventeen other ingredients this random recipe actually needs so my specialty ingredient gets pushed to the back of the pantry until I have no actual food and just a conglomerate of random baking ingredients.

This is where old school recipes come in.  The ones where you take a box of this and a can of that and you have something great just by cleaning out your pantry.  Margaret McIntyre was the pastor's wife at my parents church like a zillion years ago (or at least before I can remember).  She, and her cherry chocolate cake, were quite loved.  Last year we put together a church cookbook and this cake made it in the book.  When I was flipping through, trying to figure out what to do with so much cherry pie filling, this recipe popped right out at me.  The original recipe called to make it in a bunt pan, so if bunts float your boat, feel free to pour the batter into a greased 12 cup bunt pan and increase the baking time to about 50 minutes give or take.

These cuppies do not have a strong cherry flavor, so don't worry if you have cherry phobes in your family like I do.  The cherry flavor is subtle, the pie filling mostly adds moisture to the  cake, making it nice and tender.



Margaret McIntyre's Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Pillsbury)
1 20 ounce can of cherry pie filling
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the original calls for almond extract, but I am not a fan so I used vanilla)

Dump ingredients in a bowl.  Mix on high speed for 2-3 minutes.  Pour into prepared cupcake papers.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature or slightly cooler
4 ounces milk chocolate
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Chop the milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate up and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Melt chocolate in microwave, running the microwave in 20 second intervals and stirring the chocolate between each interval until fully melted.   Allow to cool slightly.  In another small bowl, mix together cocoa powder and boiling water into a thick paste.  Set aside.  In yet another bowl (Martha Stewart seems to be a big fan of dirtying as many bowls as possible), beat together powdered sugar and butter until smooth.  Dump in chocolate paste, beat until combined.  Pour in melted chocolate and beat to combine.

My butter was a touch on the warm side, it was about 70 degrees in the house and adding the melted chocolate made it too soft to pipe.  If you want to pipe the frosting, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.  I was tired and so I opted just to spread it on with an off set spatula.

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