Chocolate Glazed Tart with Strawberries

Disclosure: I received a gift card and coupons for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for this sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Chocolate Tart with Strawberries

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s hard not to think of the classic chocolate covered strawberries. It’s just the perfect, simple treat to enjoy for the holiday. You simply clean/dry the berries, melt chocolate over a double boiler, dip, allow to dry (if you can wait) and enjoy! If you’d like to make things more festive and decorative, Driscoll’s has a few ideas here.

I wanted to make this treat even more indulgent, by placing chocolate covered strawberries on top of an indulgent, chocolate tart. While this may look intimidating, the recipe is fairly simple. With a chocolate sandwich cookie crust, truffle-like filling and a chocolate glaze, this heavenly dessert would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day dessert! Topping this dessert with chocolate covered berries and white chocolate drizzle is just the cherry on top of the sundae. :-)

Chocolate Tart with Strawberries

As much as I love chocolate, I have to confess something to y’all. My husband does not like chocolate. I know…I KNOW. I like to joke that while it’s a bummer, I absolutely know for a fact that no one else in our house is touching my chocolate stash haha!

Chocolate Glazed Tart with Strawberries
Source: slightly adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 25 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely ground in a food processor
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the glaze:

  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp. warm water

For the topping:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. canola oil, divided
  • 12 medium to large sized Driscoll’s strawberries, cleaned and dried
  • 2 oz. white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • sprinkles (optional)

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, adjust an oven rack to the middle rack, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Stir together the ground chocolate sandwich cookies and butter. Then press the mixture evenly into the bottom and 3/4″ up the side of a 9″ fluted tart pan. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, or until firm. Allow the crust to cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes.
  3. To make the filling, bring the heavy cream to a boil, and pour the hot cream over the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, allowing the mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir the mixture until smooth. Whisk the eggs, vanilla and salt together in another bowl. Add 1 tbsp. of the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, mixing well (this is to prevent the eggs from scrambling once the egg/chocolate mixtures come together), then add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture.
  4. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Place the tart pan in a baking sheet (just in case there’s leaks). Place the tart pan in the oven, baking for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is set about 3 inches from the edge, but the center is still jiggly. Allow the tart to cool completely in the tart pan on the cooling rack, about 1 hour.
  5. To make the glaze, bring the heavy cream to a boil and remove the cream from heat. Stir in the chocolate, until the mixture is smooth. Then, stir in the corn syrup and warm water.
  6. Pour the glaze on top of the tart, and then gently tilt and rotate the tart to allow the glaze to coat the top evenly. Allow the glaze to stand until the glaze is set, about 1 hour.
  7. To make the berries, while the glaze is setting, place the bittersweet chocolate and 1/4 tsp. of the canola oil in a double boiler, stirring often until melted. Set a parchment paper or wax paper lined baking pan on the side. Dip each berry in the chocolate, up to about 1/4 from the top of the strawberry. Place the dipped berries on the parchment/wax paper lined baking sheet, about an inch from each other. If you’d like, you can add sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Allow the strawberries to set for about 10 minutes (they will still be slightly wet).
  8. Arrange the berries on top of the tart. If you’d like to stack the berries, they will still be slightly wet to allow them to stick to each other. Melt the white chocolate and 1/8 tsp. of canola oil in a double boiler, and then drizzle the white chocolate over the tart and berries. Enjoy!

Pairing Desserts with Coffee (+ GIVEAWAY)

Disclosure: I was sent a sampler of Community Coffee single serve cups, in exchange for a post that included their products. Community Coffee is also providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

Happy Christmas Eve, y’all! I’m so excited that Christmas is tomorrow. :-)

One of the biggest things about tomorrow (besides seeing family, of course) is the meal. While I know that the biggest tradition for Christmas is usually a beef roast, our family sticks to making turkey and ham. In fact this year (for the first time ever), I’m responsible for the ham. ::fingers crossed it doesn’t end up overcooked::

Along with dinner of course, are the desserts. My family is known for making desserts. Everything from pralines to ooey gooey bars to cheesecake to cobbler to macarons…it’s just a whole ‘nother feast. We have some amazing dessert makers in the family. :-) One thing that I hardly ever think about is pairing dessert with the perfect cup of coffee. Now, coffee is a MUST with desserts for me, but I usually just go with a darker roast coffee.

The folks at Community Coffee came out with a dessert pairing guide that will help you figure out what type of coffee goes best with the dessert you’re having.

[Read more…]

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti Wreath

Last year’s winter was one of the harshest winters we’ve had in years. I was so used to having hardy plants that could survive the winter, but sadly, we had to redo most of our garden. We also lost our meyer lemon tree, which was just starting to produce more than 5 lemons/year. :-(

So, last spring, we replaced our plants and lemon tree, and we even added a satsuma tree to the collection. This year, we were surprised to get about 10 lemons! I guess it’s a happy tree. :-) I’m slowly but surely learning how to NOT kill anything that we plant. :-)

So, of course with all of these lemons, I had to bake something with them for the holidays. While lemon flavor isn’t typical of holiday baked goodies, I mixed in dried cranberries and arranged them in a wreath type of display to make things more festive.

This biscotti isn’t overwhelming as far as lemon flavor goes. Since it’s not too heavy of a lemon flavor, it goes really well with the dried cranberries, and the extra drizzle of white chocolate doesn’t hurt either. This really isn’t that difficult to make either. While biscotti looks a bit intimidating, it’s simply cookies that are baked twice, until dry in the oven.

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti
Source: a Nifty Foodie original

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. meyer lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp. canola oil
  • Sprinkles and pearl dust (food safe) spray, for decoration

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, butter and sugar until well-blended. Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, zest and baking powder in another medium sized bowl; gradually stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix in cranberries by hand, until a dough forms.
  3. Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. If the dough seems sticky, wet your hands with warm water to work with the dough more easily.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
  5. Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.
  6. Form into a wreath or tree on a cake plate, using melted white chocolate as a sort of glue to hold the biscotti in place. When done, drizzle the remaining white chocolate on top of the wreath. For a finishing touch, add large sprinkles and pearl dust.

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Baking Chez Moi”, as well as a gift card and coupons for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for this sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach

So, this past long weekend threw me way off. Our house is decorated for Christmas, and it’s officially the holiday season. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but it really doesn’t feel like December. Sure, the UPS guy probably knows us on a first name basis by now, and my dog is randomly bringing me ribbon scraps, but it just doesn’t FEEL like the holiday season. I’m sure the 70 degree weather outside isn’t helping right now, either. Where did the year go?!

I’m actually fairly behind on things. By now, I would normally have my homemade holiday gifts planned out, but I haven’t even made the cookie dough yet to place in the freezer..heck, I haven’t even chosen the recipes to make! Yikes. I still need to do that…haha.

In the meantime, I’m still baking on the weekends (and my/my husband’s coworkers are loving it). I was recently sent a copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s latest book, “Baking Chez Moi“. I just adore Dorie Greenspan, so when I was approached about this post idea, I couldn’t reply soon enough! Her tall and creamy cheesecake is my favorite recipe of hers, which I make at least 5 times in November and December (between Thanksgiving and Christmas). One of the things that makes Dorie so wonderful is that she makes intimidating recipes completely approachable to the home baker. She writes out everything in perfect detail to where you feel like she’s right there in the kitchen with you. This book is no different. The instructions are perfectly detailed, and her recipes are mouth-watering. Her book contains recipes, like limoncello cupcakes, gingerbread buche de noel, cocoa linzer cookies, caramelized rice krispies…just to name a few. I have so many recipes bookmarked already!

For this post, I was asked to incorporate Driscoll’s berries into her famous rugelach recipe. While I’ve had rugelach before, I’ve never made it. After a bit of brainstorming, I thought that raspberry, pistachio and dark chocolate would go together perfectly in this bite-sized dessert. I’ve used the cranberry/pistachio/white chocolate combination before in biscotti, so I had a feeling this combination would work. Also, after making it, if you look at the picture, don’t they look like peppermint swirls? So festive for the holiday season!

As for the recipe, it tasted great! I reduced a pint of Driscoll’s fresh raspberries (along with sugar, lemon juice and zest) to a spread-like consistency (to avoid watering down the cookies), and sprinkled finely chopped chocolate and pistachios on top of the raspberry spread to make the filling for the rugelach. This combination works so well…sweet raspberries, melted chocolate with a hint of crunch from the pistachios? Oh man, I love it! My coworkers also went crazy over these the next day…they were perfect with a morning coffee. :-)

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach
Source: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (filling adapted)

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 4 oz. cold cream cheese
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp.) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 pint fresh Driscoll raspberries, washed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar, mixed with 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg (for glazing dough)
  • sanding or granulated sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Remove the cream cheese and butter from the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to make the dough and cut each into 4 equal pieces. This will allow them to slightly soften, but still be cold.
  2. After the 10 minutes, place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and scatter the pieces of butter and cream cheese over the flour/salt. Pulse the mixture 6-10 times, until flour coats the cream cheese and butter. Then, process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl ever so often, until large curds form in the dough (before it processes into a ball of dough).
  3. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface, mold it into a ball, and divide the dough in half. Then, shape each dough half into a square and wrap the squares in plastic film or wax paper. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours (or up to a day).
  4. To make the filling, cook the raspberries, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small pot over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring ever so often, until it reaches a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes) to a spread. Set the raspberry filling aside to cool.
  5. Place the pistachios and chocolate chips in the food processor and pulse the mixture until the mixture looks finely chopped, but not crumbs. Set aside.
  6. Working on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle flour on top of one piece of dough, and using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s about a 12″ square, making sure to turn the dough frequently while rolling (and flouring lightly, if necessary). It doesn’t need to be precisely a square. The dough will be rather thin when finished.
  7. Cut the rolled out square of dough in half, to where you will have two pieces of dough that are approximately 12″x 6″. Brush the tops of each half of dough with the melted butter, and then sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Thinly spread 1/4 of the raspberry filling on top of the butter/cinnamon sugar mixture. Then, add 1/4 of the pistachio/dark chocolate mixture, gently pressing it into the dough.
  8. Starting from the long (ragged) side of the dough, carefully roll the sheet snugly (like you would when making cinnamon rolls), ending with the neat, cut edge at the bottom of the roll.
  9. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap or wax paper, and place it in the freezer. Fill and roll the other rectangle the same way as above. Then, repeat the whole dough rolling/filling process with the other square of dough.
  10. Ideally, you want the dough to rest for an hour in the freezer, to allow for easier slicing, but you can take them out of the freezer and (carefully) slice them after about 15-20 minutes. You can also freeze these rolls for up to two months, if you don’t want to bake all of the cookies at once.
  11. To bake the cookies, place the oven racks to where it divides the oven into even thirds. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  12. In a small bowl, beat the large egg lightly with a splash of cold water.
  13. Working with one roll at a time, remove the rolls from the freezer, and brush the top of each roll with egg wash. Then, generously sprinkle the tops of the rolls with sugar. Using a sharp knife and a gentle sawing motion, divide each roll into 12 slices, and place the cookies seam down on the baking sheet, with a little space between each cookie (each baking sheet held 24 cookies for me).
  14. Bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes, making sure to rotate the cookie sheets in the oven from top to bottom rack, and then flipping them front to back, being sure not to under-bake these. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow them to completely cool to room temperature. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Just the other day, I realized that Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away. I feel like I was forking out the pumpkin cans way too early last week, and burning fall candles in the 100 degree weather fairly recently. How am I already planning out things to cook for Thanksgiving?

I’m also Christmas shopping like crazy, just so I can avoid the mall once Black Friday hits. I used to thrive on Black Friday shopping, but I think I prefer the rush of online shopping more anyway. :-) Cyber Monday rocks (even though I’m sure the UPS guy doesn’t agree with me on this one…).

We’re totally in holiday season, and I love it. Halloween…Thanksgiving….Christmas….New Years! It’s a great time of the year!

For Halloween, my work had a pot-luck type of party, and they held a pumpkin baking contest. Of course I had to try…even my coworkers were asking me from day 1 what I was bringing. I guess they know that I keep Libby’s (pumpkin) in business this time of the year with the treats that I bring to the office. :-)

I decided to finally try my hand at a cheesecake cake. I saw this idea on Erin’s blog a few years ago, and always thought that I should make it happen. I just never did, because I was intimidated. Two desserts in one? (Yeesh!) However, it’s totally manageable to do. While it seemed daunting, I broke it up into two days (which is explained in the directions). Basically, day one = cheesecake making/freezing and day two = cake making/assembling. I followed Erin’s tips, and it came out perfectly!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Buttercream

So, y’all. If you have a couple of days to make this, oh man….it doesn’t even have to be pumpkin. Just make a cheesecake cake. It’s amazing!

Oh, and if you’re wondering how the contest went, I won! However, it was definitely a close contest! The judges were split between all of the delicious desserts…my coworkers are SO talented in the kitchen. :-)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake

Recipes:

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom of the springform pan with a 9-inch piece of parchment paper.
  2. Pour filling into the springform pan, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.
  3. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove the ring of the springform pan (not the bottom yet), and wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap. Then wrap the plastic-wrapped cheesecake in heavy duty foil. Freeze the cheesecake overnight.
  4. The next evening, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two round cake pans with parchment paper, and split the cupcake/cake batter amongst the two pans. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
  5. To assemble the cheesecake cake, take the cheesecake out of the freezer to thaw for about 10 minutes. Remove the bottom of the springform pan from the cheesecake (the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan should help with this step). Level the pumpkin cake layers, and if necessary, level the cheesecake as well. Assemble the cake with one layer of cake, the cheesecake layer on top of the cake and then the remaining layer of cake on top of the cheesecake layer. You won’t need frosting between the layers. If you only had 8-inch round cake pans (like me) and a 9-inch springform pan (like me), you’ll need to carefully shave the cheesecake edges to the edge of the 8-inch cake layers.
  6. Ice the cheesecake cake with the spiced cream cheese frosting, and if you’d like, add sprinkles! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge

Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge

I absolutely adore fudge for the holiday season. My mom’s fudge, especially. It’s a little bit of work, since it involves cooking the sugar to the soft ball stage, but it’s SO worth it! It’s really the only fudge I knew for a long time, but one year at a Christmas potluck, I tried microwave fudge. It’s not the same texture as regular fudge, but it’s still delicious!

This fudge only takes a few minutes to cook in the microwave, and then you just have to pour it out in a pan and let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. The original recipe just calls for semi-sweet chocolate, but since I adore Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice kisses (I’ve seen them at Target and Walgreens out here.), I just had to swirl these two together.

Because of the pumpkin spice kisses (which are usually softer than regular chocolate at room temperature), I recommend serving these just out of the fridge. As the fudge sits out, it doesn’t melt, but it does get fairly sticky.

Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge
Source: adapted from Nestle

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pumpkin spice kisses, unwrapped (in weight)
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (in weight)
  • 14 oz. can condensed milk, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place the pumpkin spice kisses and 9 oz. of the condensed milk in a medium bowl. Microwave the mixture on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring well after each microwave cycle, until melted. Stir in 2/3 tsp. of the vanilla extract and set aside. In another bowl, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips and the remaining 5 oz. of the condensed milk. Microwave the mixture on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring well after each microwave cycle, until melted. Stir in the remaining 1/3 tsp. of the vanilla extract and set aside.
  3. Spread the pumpkin spice kisses fudge into the bottom of the lined baking pan, and then drizzle the semi-sweet chocolate fudge over the pumpkin spice fudge. Swirl the two together with a fork or butter knife.
  4. Refrigerate the fudge for 2 hours or until the fudge is firm. Lift the parchment paper from the pan, and cut the fudge into 48 equal pieces.

Classic Caramel Apples

Classic Caramel Apples

Do you guys ever watch QVC? I usually only watch around the holidays when the kitchen show is on, and OMG…half of the time, I’m so jealous of the guy who hosts the program. The other day, they were advertising for these really fancy caramel apples, and the craving hit me. I had to have caramel apples. HAD to.

So, I grabbed a sack of small Granny Smith apples and got to work. I always get a bit anxious when it comes to candy-making, but we recently purchased this thermometer (it was on clearance at Target), and it worked like a charm! I usually have to use the bowl of ice water trick, because my thermometer is always a bit off, but these came out perfectly. I think the hardest parts were waiting for the caramel to cool down for dipping, and then cool completely for enjoying!

This recipe is a little different than the usual caramel that I’m used to…there’s a hint of molasses and maple flavor to it, which just makes you want to wear a pair of fuzzy socks, make my house smell like fall spices and take a nap. Perfect fall afternoon, right?

Classic Caramel Apples
Source: Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. box dark brown sugar
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. dark molasses
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 popsicle sticks, chopsticks or long cookie sticks
  • Heavy whipping cream, just in case the caramel thickens too much during dipping
  • Optional: decorations (I used crushed candy corn M&Ms and a mixture of graham cracker crumbs with sprinkles) and/or melted dark, milk or white chocolate

Directions:

  1. Place the first 8 ingredients in a deep (at least 3 inches), heavy saucepan or dutch oven. Stir the mixture with a wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat, until the sugar dissolves (about 15 minutes). Have a wet pastry brush handy for brushing down the sides of the pan/pot.
  2. Add a clip-on candy thermometer to the side of the pan/pot. Then, increase the burner to medium-high heat, cooking the caramel to a rolling boil, stirring constantly (yet slowly) until the candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees F. If needed, use the wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan/pot.
  3. Carefully pour the caramel into a metal bowl, making sure not to scrape the pan/pot. Place the candy thermometer in the bowl, and allow the caramel to cool, without stirring, to 200 degrees F. This step will take 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the caramel is cooling, prep the apples by washing them in warm water, and wiping the excess water off of the apples once they are cleaned. Carefully stick in a popsicle stick/chopstick/cookie stick a couple of inches into the stem side of the apple. Place the apples on buttered foil or a silicone baking sheet.
  5. Once the caramel cools, dip one apple into the caramel, submerging all of the apple, except for the very top of the apple. Take the apple out of the caramel, and allow the excess caramel to drip back into the caramel bowl. Once that’s done, turn the caramel apple upside down, and hold the apple like that for several seconds, in order for the caramel to sort of set around the apple. Place the apple on the foil or silicone sheet. Repeat with the remaining apples, being sure to space the apples apart on the buttered foil/silicone sheet. Just in case the caramel thickens too much, add 1-2 tbsp. of heavy whipping cream to the caramel, and briefly whisk the caramel in the bowl over low heat to thin it out.
  6. If you are using decorations or chocolate, prepare them at this time for the apples.
  7. Place the apples on baking sheets in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the caramel is partially set and cool to the touch. Remove the baking sheets from the fridge. Lift one apple from the foil/silicone sheet, and using your hand, press the pooled caramel from the bottom of the apple, back onto the apple. Place the apple back on the foil/silicone sheet. Repeat with the rest of the apples.
  8. At this time, firmly press the decorations into the caramel, and then return the apple to the foil/silicone sheet. You can also dip the caramel apples into melted chocolate (allowing the excess to drip off for a few seconds), and then roll the chocolate coated caramel apple into your decorations. Another option for decorating the caramel apples is to drizzle melted chocolate over the apples and press on decorations that way too.
  9. Place the apples on the baking sheets back in the fridge for about an hour to allow everything to set. Cover or place in food-safe cellophane bags, and chill the apples for up to a week. Enjoy!

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies & A Contest!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for writing this post, but I did receive whole grains products at no cost to me as an ambassador. I developed this recipe for the “Make the Switch” campaign since I’m a 2014 Whole Grains Ambassador for the Whole Grains Council. This recipe is an entry into a recipe contest for a potential prize. All opinions are 100% my own.

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies

Right now, I want nothing more than comfort food. It feels like 100 degrees outside, but with crisp, fall weather on the horizon, I’m in the mood to practically live in my kitchen right now. I mentioned that there would be quite a bit more baking on the blog, and well…here’s more of it! This time, however, I’m pushing all-purpose flour to the side and giving you guys quinoa cookies.

No, really. These cookies aren’t exactly diet-friendly (hello PB and M&Ms!), but they do make use of whole grains, which is a great thing to incorporate into every day recipes. As a whole grains ambassador, I was challenged to “Make the Switch” to whole grains using a well-known dish to celebrate Whole Grains month in September. I decided to bake up these chewy quinoa monster cookies, since monster cookies are one of my favorite cookies. You can’t go wrong with peanut butter, M&Ms and raisins. So tasty!

Check out the other 15 bloggers who came up with fantastic ideas for all of us to make the switch towards using whole grains. There’s everything from soups to entrees to dessert! So many wonderful ideas. I’m so excited to be included in this group of bloggers, and I hope some of these recipes inspire you all in the kitchen to try more whole grains in your every day cooking/baking.

Now, you may notice that there is a way to VOTE for your favorite recipe by a blogger. One lucky voter could win $500, along with a prize package of whole grain products! I’d really appreciate your vote for my recipe, if you have a moment. The top 5 blogger recipes voted through by readers will be judged in a recipe contest, and the winning bloggers from the resulting contest will win some great cash prizes as well! Voting is open now through September 30th (official rules and further details are linked on the voting website). :-)

Now, this recipe….

Y’all. I really was worried about developing a recipe for quinoa cookies, because I’ve never used quinoa in a dessert, but they came out SO chewy and decadent. My husband brought these to his work, and his coworkers loved them! These quinoa cookies went just as fast as the usual baked goodies that I send to work with him. And yeah…I really did eat three of these the night I made them. They are fantastic!

Again, thanks in advance for reading this post and for potentially voting for my recipe! I really appreciate your support!

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies
Source: A Nifty Foodie Original

(makes about 30 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup pre-cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup candy coated chocolate candies (like M&Ms)
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir the peanut butter, egg and sugar together for a minute or so, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Add in the salt, vanilla extract and baking soda and mix until just combined.
  3. Gently stir in the quinoa, candies, chocolate chips and raisins, until just combined.
  4. Using a standard size cookie scoop, scoop the cookies about 1 ½ inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, and keep them on the cookie sheet for another 10 minutes out of the oven, to continue the baking process and to allow them to set a bit. They will be very soft just out of the oven, so those extra 10 minutes allows them to be easily transferred. After the 10 minutes, place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Bake the rest of the cookies on one of the cookie sheets once the first batch has cooled enough to free up the pan.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I know I have been fairly infrequent in my posting lately, which kind of stinks. Life has really been happening (all good things), but none of it has to do with this blog. So, of course, it has suffered a little bit. However, I’m pretty excited that my favorite baking months are ahead, so there will be more recipes for me to share. I tend to get more inspiration in the kitchen during the cooler months, so I’m pretty excited to share recipes more frequently again. :-)

This past week was my coworker’s birthday. At my current job, I’ve sort of become one of the unofficial birthday cake makers. When I asked my coworker what she would like for her birthday, she asked for the New York Times cookies that I posted about a while back. I was originally thinking of decorating the cookies with buttercream and just passing those out, but then I thought that a cookie cake would be especially fun.  I love the look of the un-iced cakes lately, so I went for that look with this cookie cake.

This post isn’t really a recipe, because the recipe for the cookies and buttercream have already been posted. However, I did want to share how I went about making this recipe, which is meant for individual cookies, into a layered cookie cake.

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Source: inspired by un-iced cakes, which are all over the Internet lately

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the cookie dough into four pieces (Just to note: As you can see, this cookie cake has three layers. I only used three of the pieces for this recipe, and baked the rest of the dough into individual cookies). Press one piece evenly into the bottom of the 8-inch cake pan. Repeat with another piece of cookie dough into the other pan.
  3. Bake the two layers in the oven for 18-22 minutes, until the top of the cookie layers are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, and allow the cookie pans to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. The pans will still be hot after this, so carefully flip the pans over onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper and allow them to finish cooling on the rack.
  4. When one of the pans is fully cooled, line the pan with parchment paper and press another piece of cookie dough evenly into the pan. Bake the last layer for 18-22 minutes, and allow it to cool the same way as the other two layers.
  5. Once all of the layers are cooled, place a small dollop of buttercream frosting on the cake serving plate, and place the first layer over the frosting. The dollop of frosting will help the cake adhere to the plate. If you’d like, you can dye the buttercream whatever color(s) you’d like. Set aside about 1 cup frosting for decorating the top/sides of the cake for after you’re done assembling the cookie cake.
  6. With the buttercream that you didn’t set aside, evenly spread half of the buttercream on top of the first cookie layer. Place the second cookie layer directly over the frosted first cookie layer. Then, evenly spread the rest of the buttercream (not including the cup you set aside) on top of the second cookie layer. Finally, place the third cookie layer on top of the second cookie layer.
  7. With the remaining cup of buttercream, I added a few piped swirls on top and piped some buttercream along the sides of the cake, to make things look cleaner. Add sprinkles, if you’d like! Slice like a normal cake and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie "Cheese" Ball

Last week, I went on an impromptu trip to Sonic. Since I’m back to calorie counting, I try to keep my splurges to a minimum, but that night, I couldn’t shake the craving for peanut butter + chocolate (pun intended) :-). So, I fulfilled it with a PB Chocolate milkshake at Sonic that was probably my entire calorie count for the day. It was delicious. DELICIOUS.

I haven’t gone back to Sonic since, though…even though I drive by it every.single.day on the drive home from work. Willpower struggles, y’all.

Speaking of willpower struggles…I stupidly made this dessert cheese ball for an office party. I managed to avoid the break room for a good part of the day, but once I went in there for lunch, I couldn’t help myself. I served these with Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Chips. I received a few packs of these a while back as a complimentary sample to try and just had to get more for this dessert! You could also use graham crackers or animal crackers with these, but I thought PB Chocolate Chip cheese ball with PB/Dark chocolate cookie chips? I mean…c’mon.

This went over really well at the office party. The cheese ball itself is a peanut butter/cream cheese combination, mixed with chopped Reese’s and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Then, I put some refrigerated Reese’s cups in a food processor, and chopped them up until they were crumbly. THEN, I coated the cheese ball in the candy. Yeah….I’m not sorry at all. In fact, this snack went over so well that I ran out of Cookie Chips just after lunch. I seriously thought that meant I’d have a ton of this to bring home, but um…some people had to have eaten this straight up with a spoon, because there wasn’t much left at all when I went to bring my dish home! :-P

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball
Source: slightly adapted from Buns in my Oven

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (NOT natural)
  • 3 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Reese’s miniature cups, divided and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Beat the mixture until everything is well-mixed, about two minutes. Stir in half of the Reese’s and all of the chocolate chips. Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap, in a slightly flattened ball shape.
  2. Refrigerate the ball for 2 hours, as well as the remaining Reese’s cups. Remove the Reese’s from the fridge, and place them in a food processor. Process the candy until crumbly, and place them in a large plate. Remove the cheese ball from the fridge, and coat the ball thoroughly in the crumbled Reese’s.
  3. Place the cheese ball on a clean serving plate, and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, until ready to serve. Enjoy!

 Disclaimer: I was sent samples of Cookie Chips at no cost to me. All opinions are 100% my own.