Monday, June 9, 2014

"Lighter" Mini White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes

Hello all! I think I can officially say Happy Summer without jinxing it, since the weather has been consistently staying above 70 degrees for the past 2 weeks now! Kicking off summer is really just an excuse to have barbecues nearly every weekend.  And with BBQs comes family, friends, good drinks, great food and lots of laughs.  
So this past weekend we had a surprise 85th birthday party for my gem of a grandma in our backyard, and I had all sorts of fun ideas of what I wanted to do for the party. First, the whole mason jar epidemic is spreading like wild fire and I am right on board! These cute mason jar mugs, which I painted with chalkboard paint so people could write their name, are perfect for any backyard get together! And they are totally reusable for any occasion- July 4th, Labor day, birthday parties, etc. I also made the most delicious White Peach Sangria to go along with it ( I may post that recipe in the near future!).
Now as for dessert, I wanted to do something different- a little bit refreshing and on the lighter side.  I've mentioned before that my dad has to watch his sugar, and we know its bikini season so most people are trying to watch what they eat, but these treats I made are totally delicious while still being swimsuit approved :)  You can thank me later for keeping your figures in mind.
My entire family (aside from myself) is a huge fan of a good ol' piece of cheesecake. Since my sisters favorite is the White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, I thought why not try to recreate a "lighter" version of it..and why not make it mini while I'm at it.  After all, everything is cuter mini! And how adorable are these purple flower cupcake holders I just so happened to have, that match our color theme perfectly!   
So the main goal was to make these lighter without compromising the taste, and from the responses I got, I believe I managed to do exactly that! So obviously the cream cheese we went with the lower fat option (1/3 fat), same goes for the sour cream (light), Splenda as a sugar substitute to watch for my dads sugar, and then of course sugar free raspberry preserves, seeing is there really is no taste difference and it was going to be mixed in with the cheesecake anyway. Now as for the crust, the Oreos couldn't be made in the light form and neither could the white chocolate, but I did what I could to make this at least a tad bit lighter than the original version!  

You should go ahead and make these for your next BBQ- you're friends and family will thank you too :)
"Lighter" White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 
4 packages 1/3 Fat Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Light Sour Cream
1 1/4  Cup Splenda
2 tsp Vanilla
4 Eggs
4-5 oz White Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Raspberry Preserves
1/8 Cup Water

1 Pkg Oreos (just the cookies)
1/3 Cup Butter, Melted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with liners. Crumble up the chocolate cookies and mix well with melted butter.  Fill the cupcake liners with the cookie mixture, until the bottom surface is just covered. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until set.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and  then sprinkle the crusts with white chocolate chips (as much as desired).
In the bowl of a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese with the splenda, sour cream, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Whisk the eggs together in a medium bowl, then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend enough to incorporate, but don't over beat. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way.

Mix the raspberry preserves with 1/8 cup water. Drop a few dollops of the preserve as shown below, and swirl with a tooth pick.
 Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 22 minutes until settled.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks.  Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours, as long as 24 hours is ideal.  Then ENJOY, on a nice summer day!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Coconut Macaroon Nutella Nests

Happy early Easter everyone! I have been dreaming of making these for a while now, and finally just got around to making them yesterday! Work has had me traveling the past 3 weeks, and although Indiana and the Country Inn & Suites are growing on me, the lack of oven has really impacted my blogging. Maybe I can try to come up with some microwave recipes for those of you feeling my pain on my road :)  But they did upgrade me this week which made up for the lack of kitchen, because I got a jacuzzi in my suite! Pretty cool surprise.
So lets talk food for a second before we get to this dessert. Two words- Quest Bars. Which basically taste like heaven to begin with, and you can actually bake them into cookies! while I travel and get locked up in my little nerdy lab, I rarely ever take a break for lunch, cause really it just takes too much time out of the day and I'd rather get done early.  But what I do always bring with me when I travel are Quest Bars.  They aren't exactly paleo, but they're pretty damn close and gluten free and packed with 21g of protein so why not! The Cookies & Cream is TO DIE FOR. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is my runner up, but they have 10-15 different flavors that I hear are all delicious. I'm just simple and get stuck in my own ways and haven't ventured to other flavors yet- shocking. So you should go try these if you need a healthy snack, post workout fuel, or just like yummy healthy treats!

Okay so back to the topic at hand. Coconut Macroons. Holy Moly, these are definitely in my top 5 favorite desserts of all time. I just love coconut. Probably as much as I love cinnamon and vanilla- its all up there in deliciousness.  But these Coconut Macroons are seriously the best ever and so easyy. Now just to be clear- I usually say my recipes are the best ever, and half the time its based on the fact that I've really only ever had my own, but I can guarantee and have taste testers to vouch that these are all time!
I usually make over 100 of these around Christmas time each year, half dipped in chocolate, and each year they disappear in record time. So for this Easter I decided to use Nutella and these cute little speckled egg M&M's to make nests!  Another disclaimer: I have never tried Nutella. Through the hype and super-sized jars that were constantly stocked in the sorority house, I have managed to never  indulge in a spoon because I know my love for all things chocolate and hazelnut could be a deadly combination.  *I'm not sure why I decide to share these details about myself that will probably make you hate me, but for some reason I find it necessary. And I have some hope that you'll still trust my baking decisions because I have a pretty good imagination as you know from past creations.

Okay enough ranting from me..RECIPE TIME! And also head over to last years post in the archives, for Egg-cellent Easter Bark  :)
Coconut Macroon Nutella Nests (makes about 36-40 nests)
2 bags coconut flakes
1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbs heavy cream
1/2 Tbs vanilla extract
1 Jar Nutella
1 bag egg shaped M&Ms or any egg shaped candy

Preheat the oven to 350degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer, add coconut flakes.  Pour condensed milk, sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla over top and mix until fully combined.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out some mixture and press together in your hands. Place on the parchment paper, and using your thumb or fingers, make an imprint in the center. *be gentle, you want to keep the coconut mixture packed tightly.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the bottoms get caramelized and the tops are browned. Watch closely.  Remove and place on a cooling rack.
Once the nests are cool, put a dollop of Nutella in the center and then decorate with eggs. ENJOY!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

White Chocolate Oreo Blondies!

First off, I can’t thank you all enough for reading and sharing my blog. I have gotten so many emails, calls and inquiries lately regarding orders from people who have heard about me through friends- which I assume is all of you reading- so THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Below are some of the things I've been working on with new techniques I've been experimenting with: royal icing cookies and fondant flowers!
But the most beautiful treats of all I still find to be simply decorated cake pops <3

So this morning, like most other mornings, I was listening to Z100 on my way to work. They are just so freakin funny in the morning, and I’ve tried listening to other stations, but they’re not nearly as entertaining as the topic trains, phone taps, and other good segments they run on the morning show. But today was Friday, and I get especially jealous on Fridays when Uncle Johnny goes on the air to make them the weekly cocktail. I want that! Why cant we all have that at work? Instead I’m here drinking my coffee. I know so many people who can’t function in the morning without 1-3 cups of coffee in the morning..this I never understood. I definitely don’t NEED this cup in the morning with all the energy I usually have, but I’m trying to like it for days I’m extra tired, or Fridays, or days I have headaches which for some reason I think it helps? I dunno if that’s true but anyway..drinking coffee is so adult of me right? Yeah that’s what I thought, but then when I really think about my DD small vanilla ice coffee with almond milk, I’m not sure I’m making much progress haha.

So usually when my friends or coworkers have a request for baked goods, there’s one thing in particular that’s in high demand and that’s my White Chocolate Oreo Cookies. Now I haven’t blogged them here yet, and I can’t promise that I ever will cause a girls gotta have some secrets :) but what I can give you is something  equally delicious in a different form. I have made you White Chocolate Oreo Blondies! Blondies are delicious with anything added in: chocolate chips, M&Ms, or any other candy bar concoction you may think of if you’re crazy like me.

White Chocolate Oreo Blondies
I stick butter, softened
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 row Oreo, crushed
1 cup white chocolate chips

Line an 8x8” baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. On low speed, add one egg at a time until combined. Add vanilla and mix.

Add flour and baking powder to the wet mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in crushed oreos and white chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Press the batter into the lined pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes intil a knife comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Note: Blondies can be a little more on the gooey side, so don’t over cook!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Last Minute Valentine's Treats- Round 2

Hello all! The day full of chocolate, flowers and my least favorite color, Pink, is fast approaching! If you read my post from last year you might notice my attitude toward the holiday this year has changed slightly.  Maybe I’ve lost my cynicism in my old age {considering I even teared up in a movie this year- who am I?}, or because my passion for baking festive treats overpowers my lack of interest in the Hallmark holidays, or because I have the best boyfriend ever this year to be my Valentine.  Whatever the case may be, I am exceptionally more excited about making festive treats for friends and co-workers!
However, I still stand true to my theory that I don’t believe this holiday requires some fancy smancy dinner or extravagant gifts.  For me, Valentine’s Day is more fun when things are homemade! Cards, Gifts, Dinner, and always most important to us- DESSERT.  Now you can go order a $40 box of puny chocolate covered strawberries or pretzels from some online website, covered in hearts and drizzled in chocolate.  OR, you can listen to everything I've taught you in Last Minute Quick andEasy Valentine’s Treats and make them yourself.. with love and for a fraction of the price.  Guarantee your lady or gent would prefer the latter!
So this year I have a few treats that are even easier for you to try! And if you’re stuck in on your snow day today like I am- take a look around your house, dig up any chocolate you have laying around, and anything to dip in it, and make your loved ones or coworkers something special. So what I’m about to share  with you was planned and I unfortunately don’t keep Rolos lying around my house {or shall I say fortunately for my waist line}, but if you can’t get out today these literally take 5 minutes and you can whip them up quick before your dinner date tomorrow!
Valentine’s Rolo Buttons
Pretzel Snaps
1 bag of Rolos
1 Bag Valentine’s M&Ms*

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place Pretzel snaps flat on the tray. 
Unwrap the Rolos and place one on top of each snap.  Place the tray in the oven for 4-5 minutes until the chocolate begins to soften {it wont look melted, but it is so be careful!}.
Remove tray from the oven and press an M&M on top. Allow to cool, place in the fridge to speed up the process, then place in a bowl or wrap in cute paper, and ENJOY! 
* If you can't find the Valentine's ones anymore, get a regular bag and pick out all the reds :)

M&M Sprinkle Bark
6 oz Chocolate {Dark or Milk}
4 oz white chocolate {optional}
4 oz pink chocolate {optional}
Valentines M&Ms, chopped in half
Heart sprinkles
Sandwich size Ziploc bags
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the dark chocolate, stiring in 30 second intervals.  Spread the chocolate on the parchment paper, about 1/4 inch thick.

In separate bowls, melt the white chocolate. Drizzle it over the dark chocolate to make a marbled effect, either using a Ziploc bag or just quickly drizzle it with a spoon.  
Sprinkle on the sprinkles and M&Ms, pressing down lightly on any that are sticking out to  be sure they are secured in the chocolate.  Place the tray in the refrigerator  for 20-30 minutes or until hard.  Break{or cut}, into random pieces and serve!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Party Snack Ideas

Hey all! I've been back and forth to Indiana for the past 2 weeks and have one more week left to go until I'm home for a while, thank goodness. Nothing against Indiana, it's a pretty cool state and all, especially since it's close to Chicago..except that its -15 degrees here and hotel life really limits my recipe development. Not good for either of us!

So anyway, Super Bowl in right around the corner. Pretty cool that it's being held in NJ and that the teams are staying in Hoboken, my second home. Last night my sister sent me the picture below of the giant sign they put out on pier A, which I imagine all visiting tourists will stop and take pictures of at some point.

Unfortunately, all my plans to have a sick party with awesome football food and sweet treats is no longer possible due to the fact that I'll be on a plane back to this lovely state. Bummer.

On that note, I might as well set you guys up to have an awesome party..after-all, we shouldn't all have to suffer during one of the best excuses to throw a party.  So in the past I've made plenty of delicious football snacks and I have links to some of the best blogs to share with you! The pictures however are mine, to prove these recipes can be made by people other than the bloggers :)

Soft Baked Pretzels from Two Peas and Their Pod 
*These were an absolute hit, a double batch was gone in no time!
 Buffalo Chicken Bites from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Okay now as for the good stuff: DESSERT! Last year I made chocolate covered pretzels and these adorable football chocolate covered strawberries that seemed to be a huge hit at the party and social media.  So why not give you guys a quick and easy how-to tutorial.
Football Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Giant Red Strawberries
Dark Chocolate
White Chocolate
Piping Bag (or ziplock)
Cute Mini Cupcake Liners

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt chocolates in microwave proof bowls. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the berry most of the way in, leaving only a little space by the top.

Place the strawberry on the parchment paper and repeat with all berries.  Place the tray into the fridge for 10-15 minutes until chocolate hardens.  

Cut the tip off the piping bag,creating a tiny hole (or corner off the ziplock) and fill it with the melted white chocolate.  Draw football lines on the berry and place back on the tray, and into the fridge for 10-15 more minutes until hardened.  Place on a tray in cute liners, or just EAT!

And visit some earlier posts for other easy, delicious ideas, like these:

Now go get ready for your awesome party!! If you weren't planning to have one before I bet you want to now :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crunchy Coconut Butterscotch Cookies

Happy and healthy new year everyone! My new year has been off to a great start, and I hope the same for you.  One of my latest resolutions is to blog more often, even weekly if possible.  With the new job and holidays and event orders, it was a crazy end to 2013 and I apologize for my slacking. I have a few orders to start off the new year, but im hoping weekends can be designated for a little recipe development.  This past weekend I actually had a bridal shower order , and made these adorable rosette cupcakes and some red velvet cake pops.  If you know me, you know pink isn't usually on my list of favorite colors, but I fell in LOVE with these <3
On another note, I saw The Wolf of Wall Street last weekend and it was freakin awesome! Maybe I can be like him when I grow up, except with cupcakes and cookies? I will start accepting applications for my entourage now.

Okay now onto more important business, a new recipe! So I kept wanting to do something with butterscotch lately, and I’m not sure why.  I remember my sister and cousins also commenting on a love for butterscotch in the past, and it lead me to think maybe the candy bowl at Nan’s house growing up had something to do with it.  But the crazy thing is, when a butterscotch chip accidentally jumped into my mouth while making these, it was surprisingly too sweet for me.  I think since I've gone Paleo my taste buds have changed, and suddenly normal sweet things have become unbearable, and things like frozen strawberries are now considered a sweet treat. What is my body doing to me?! It's a crying shame!

But anyway, I didn't make these cookies for me, I made them  for YOU. And if course I added some coconut because, well, my brain revolves mainly around coconut or cinnamon. End of story.  So these are a sweet and crunchy treat, for all you folks I constantly argue the soft vs. crunchy debate with! Enjoy J

Crunchy Coconut Butterscotch Cookies
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a large mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combine.
Add in flour, baking soda and baking powder and beat until just combine. Don’t over mix! Fold in butterscotch chips and coconut flakes.
Measure out by tablespoon onto the lined baking sheet.  Baking 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  *Note- about half way through I sprinkled extra shredded coconut on top for added touch!
Remove from tray and allow to cool on cooling rack for 5-10 minutes. THEN EAT!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Peppermint Bark

Am I the only one who thinks working the days between Christmas and New Year is a waste?  Most importantly the day after my house that’s a useless, hungover, lay around with friends, wing-eating sort of day. Looks like I’m going to have to take a vacation day that I don’t have left. The price you pay for precious family bonding.  And the way my family bonds is by playing the traditional game of “who’s the drunkest at Christmas”. It all starts out about as tame as your classic family holiday, until our close friends and “uncles”, aka my dad’s high school friends, { who can still drink us under the table} come over for what is intended to be a nice dessert. And then the Jager gets broken out, and inappropriate games of Cards Against Humanity ensue, and all bets are off for anyone planning to survive without a hangover.
So I guess I’ll stop making you all jealous with my holiday plans, and get back to the reason I think we’re all here: baking. Unless of course you like my rants, in which case you shouldn't worry cause there’s plenty more where that came from. So similar to the Pumpkin craze in October, December will continue to revolve around peppermint, whether you like it or not!  And when I saw this pre-crushed candy cane I knew I needed a bag..or 2 or 3. It just makes life that much easier! On top of chocolate covered pretzels, Oreos, throw them in cookies, you can't go wrong!
But mainly my intentions were peppermint bark, because it's something I feel strongly about. It’s so delicious and refreshing, but tends to be so expensive.  There’s really only one solution to this problem- make your own! It’s such a simple and fun treat to make, especially as gifts! The trick to this is using good quality chocolate {such as Ghirardelli or Godiva}, and you’ll be surprised how good your homemade bark comes out!  My job is to show you how to mass produce peppermint bark from the convenience of your home..and for less!

Peppermint Bark
6oz Dark chocolate
6oz white chocolate
Crushed Candy Cane {or a pre-crushed bag shown above}
Line a square baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil.  Melt the dark chocolate {in a double boiler or cheat in the microwave like I do}. Spread the chocolate evenly in the bottom of the pan then place in the fridge.
*I didn't have a square hence the 3/4 filled rectangle pan. use whatever works!
In the meantime, melt the white chocolate.  Spread the white chocolate evenly over the dark chocolate. While the chocolate is still melted, sprinkle the crushed candy cane over the top.  Place back in the fridge until fully hard.
Break or cut into pieces and EAT!