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!

Apple Cinnamon Margaritas

Disclosure: I received a sample of Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, as well as a gift card for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Please drink responsibly.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita

I seriously cannot get enough of this weather, y’all. We sat outside this past weekend at a neighbor’s house to watch the game, and I was actually CHILLY outside. I was tempted to walk home and grab my blanket for REAL. I love me some chilly weather, but I have a feeling I’m going to be itching for warm Caribbean weather VERY soon (The vacation countdown has begun!).

When we went on our first cruise, we visited Cozumel, Mexico. I made it my mission to look around at all of the gift shops for the perfect Christmas ornament (it’s my little tradition for our vacation spots), and while I was shopping, I started to notice a lot of (what I now know as) sugar skulls. I found them to be beautiful, with all sorts of different color combinations, and confession time: I honestly had no idea what they were for. When I got home, I googled and found out all about The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).

Dia de los Muertos is a family-focused holiday from November 1-2, where family and friends gather together to pray for and remember those who passed away. In Mexico, families build private altars and include candy skulls, marigolds (which are known as flowers of the dead), chocolate coffins, as well as favorite food/drinks of the deceased family members to entice them to return.

To celebrate Dia de los Muertos, I am sharing this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Margaritas, using Casa Noble Crystal Tequila. Margaritas are one of my favorite cocktails, but my go-to is usually a strawberry, mango or lime margarita. For this tequila though, I wanted to make a fall version of this tasty beverage, and that’s how this apple cinnamon margarita happened. I kept some of the classic citrus flavors in there, but with the addition of an apple cider base, this drink is delicious! The Crystal Tequila is also very smooth and worked perfectly in this drink! This margarita would be perfect to enjoy on a cool, fall evening! This recipe makes one large or two small margaritas.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Casa Noble Crystal Tequila
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec (or other orange liquor)
  • Juice of ½ of a large orange
  • Juice of ½ of a lime, reserving the other half of the lime for rimming
  • 4 oz. apple cider
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • crushed ice
  • Optional: festive colored sugar, additional 1/4 tsp. cinnamon & apple slices for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a shaker with the crushed ice, and shake the mixture thoroughly until all ingredients are blended.
  2. Optional: Place some colored sugar & 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon on a flat plate and mix together. Using a slice from the remaining half of the lime, run the inside of the lime along the rim of your serving glass(es), and then dip the rim in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  3. Pour the margarita into your serving glass(es), being mindful not to pour any on the rim. Garnish with an apple slice and enjoy!

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!

Strawberry Basil Mojito

Strawberry Basil Mojito
(Please drink responsibly.)

I love strawberries. Love them. I’m sort of sad that I’m staring at this mojito, and I can’t make them with fresh, local strawberries anymore. Our strawberry season is very early in the year, since it heats up early in the spring, and right now, it’s pretty much a sauna outside. Louisiana heat is no joke, and when things heat up around here, our basil plants pretty much grow like weeds. Of course, I’ll make tons of pesto to freeze this summer, but I’ve been looking for other ways to use it, and this recipe is just wonderful!

You might be a bit skeptical of a strawberry and basil combination, but it totally works. When I saw this on Pink Parsley a couple of years ago, I bookmarked it (and of course, forgot all about it). This drink would be perfect for a summer party, since you could make a ton of the strawberry syrup in advance and just quickly throw together a pitcher of this (you’d have to multiply this recipe a good bit to make a pitcher, but it’s very simple to do) before your guests arrive. It’s also such a pretty drink! I love the colors in it, and wouldn’t it be super fun with both purple and green basil leaves?

Strawberry Basil Mojito
Source: Pink Parsley

Ingredients:

For the strawberry syrup:

  • 1 heaping cup chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp. cold water

For the mojito:

  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp. strawberry syrup
  • ice
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • sparkling water
  • Optional: strawberry slices and basil leaves for garnish

Directions:

  1. To make the strawberry syrup, place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend the mixture until smooth. (You can strain the seeds out if you’d prefer, but I didn’t do that.) Refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to make the drinks!
  2. To make the mojito, place the basil leaves in your glass and use a muddler or the back of the spoon to bruise the basil in the bottom of the glass. Add in the strawberry syrup, ice, light rum, and stir. Top off the drink with some sparkling water. Garnish the drink with basil leaves or strawberry slices, and enjoy!

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette

I’m absolutely loving the summer flavors lately. I currently can’t get enough avocado in my life, and a bowl full of fresh berries is my ultimate craving. Comfort food is great and all, but when the summer is around, I just want to live in the produce aisle.

Currently, our veggie garden is thriving. Our jalapenos are growing like crazy, and I’m fairly tempted to make more jalapeno pepper jelly to use some of them up. I just dug up some garlic that I planted last July as well and can’t wait for it to dry out, and also, our basil plant just won’t stop growing! I’m going to have to take a weekend to make a large freezer batch of pesto!

Now, when it comes to basil, I’ve been looking for more ways to use it up (no offense to pesto), and I thought about adding it into my salads. I love a good, herby vinaigrette and thought that combined with orange, it would be a great combination. This salad is a great way to use up leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken from the store, and because of that, it’s a meal that comes together very quickly. It’s also very colorful, which makes for a fun presentation.

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette
Source: an original

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 9 oz. bag baby spinach
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup canned mandarin oranges, strained (preserved in water, not syrup)
  • 1 Haas avocado, cut in large cubes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (juice of one large orange)
  • 1/4 tsp. orange zest
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. To assemble the salad, place the baby spinach in a large bowl. Sprinkle the blueberries, oranges, feta cheese, avocado and chicken on top.
  2. To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until everything is well mixed and the basil is finely chopped. Pour the dressing over the salad, and sprinkle the almonds on top. Toss the salad well and enjoy!

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

Strawberry Margarita
Please drink responsibly. :-)

When I was in college, I fondly remember being a broke college student, and spending $7 on a chicken caesar pita & $4 on a frozen margarita (since they were 2 for 1 and my friends and I would pay half of $8 for the price of 1) when I went to Chili’s. They were crazy sweet, tasted like a popsicle and I’m fairly certain the calories were just absolutely bananas. However, those frozen margaritas introduced me to one of my favorite drinks. I just love a good, fruity margarita, and sadly, until last year, I only made margaritas out of a bottled mix (I know…calories..).

So, when my husband and I splurged on a new blender, I decided to try to make them from scratch. Completely from scratch, featuring frozen local strawberries. Oh my gosh…do you SEE how red that margarita is, y’all? There’s no dye in that…that’s just the berries. And the flavor? Y’all. Just put the bottled mix down, and try these. You will not regret it! It’s still sweet, but not tooth pain sweet. :-P

Even though this recipe is from Cooking Light, I have to admit that this is still a splurge to me. I prefer not to drink my calories (unless it’s in the a healthy smoothie), but if I do, knowing that I’ve reduced the sugar/calories a good bit makes me feel a little better about enjoying 1 or 2 of these. :-)

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas
Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Optional: Coarse salt (or sugar, if you prefer)/sliced limes or strawberries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients, except for the salt/sliced limes meant for the garnish, in a blender. Blend the mixture until the ice is crushed, and everything is thoroughly blended. To garnish, wipe lime juice from a lime slice around the rim of your serving glasses, and then dip the rims in coarse salt (or sugar). Garnish the rim with another sliced lime and/or a sliced strawberry as well. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Strawberry Fruit Leather

strawberryleather

Does anyone remember fruit roll-ups from when they were little? They were considered to be prime in the lunch trading world back in the day at my school. While we rarely got them as kids, I remember thinking of them as a type of candy when they’d show up in my lunch box. I felt the same way about fruit by the foot…they were just so good!

A while ago, our Costco opened (WAHOO!), and I asked you guys what your Costco favorites were. A few of you recommended the fruit leather that they carry there, and I instantly thought about the fruit roll-up days. I just had to give them a try and they were fantastic!

So, when I had a flat of strawberries in the fridge a few weeks ago, I figured I could use up quite a few of them making my own fruit leather. It sounds pretty complicated, but really, it’s simple. All you really need is time here.

Since the fruit was super sweet on its own, I eliminated some of the added sugar, and the results were perfect! I also don’t mind strawberry seeds, so I didn’t put the mixture through a sieve (rebel).

I think I want to try doing this with other fruits as well…it was just so good and I have to admit…it was a pretty fun snack to bring for lunch at the work place. :-P Hi, I’m 30 and I still love fruit roll-ups (well…a healthier version, but still!).

Strawberry Fruit Leather
Source: Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Blend the strawberries and sugar in a blender, until the mixture is smooth. If you’d prefer no seeds, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
  2. Add the mixture to a large, heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer the mixture over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir during the cooking process, until the mixture has thickened and has reduced to 1-1 1/4 cups (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
  3. Move an oven rack to the middle rack, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  4. Pour the hot mixture onto the paper or liner, and spread the mixture thinly and as evenly as possible, using a spatula. Dry/bake the mixture in the oven until the puree is drier, but it still a little tacky (about 2-3 hours). Cool the fruit leather on a rack until it’s fully dry.
  5. If you made the leather on parchment paper, once the mixture is dry, cut the parchment/leather into strips and roll them up to enjoy. If you used a liner, place parchment paper on top of the leather, peel it away from the silicone liner and roll the fruit leather up to enjoy.

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

I’m really not that much of a fan of the summer. The 100 degree weather with humidity is no fun….at all. However, I’m a big fan of warm weather produce. Louisiana strawberry season is coming to a close (boo), but watermelon season is just gearing up. I had a flat of strawberries in the fridge, and really wanted to make a sorbet out of the berries again. I was flipping through my cookbooks, and came across this recipe in John Besh’s “My New Orleans” cookbook, and thought that watermelon + strawberry = match made in heaven. It just so happened that we had a seedless watermelon that needed to be cut into as well, so it was recipe fate. This sorbet needed to be made. :-)

By the way, if you’re ever in the market for a good, solid New Orleans cookbook, I’m a big fan of Besh’s cookbook. There’s quite a few recipes in there (for pretty much any classic New Orleans dish), and it’s a gorgeous cookbook that could double as a coffee table book. :-) (Also, John Besh has no earthly idea who I am…just wanted to gush about this book…)

Anyway, sorbet is one of the easier recipes for an ice cream machine. Seriously…it’s just pureed fruit, sugar and some citrus mixed together. Nothing fancy…nothing to cook, and yet, it’s incredibly perfect. Refreshing…cooling…and sweet!

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet
Source: My New Orleans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup diced, seeded watermelon
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend everything until smooth and well-blended.
  2. Add the sorbet mixture to the bowl of an ice cream maker, and make the sorbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions (mine mixed for 30 minutes).
  3. Enjoy immediately or place in the freezer for a couple of hours, until hardened.

Apple Spice Mini Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

applecupcakes

You guys may remember how rough of a year 2013 was. Every time something would happen, I’d think…well, it really can’t get worse. Well, I feel like God really tested us last year, because oh man…it just kept getting worse. It was just a rotten year all around. :-\

2014 is proving to be so much better. I got some good news…like REALLY GOOD NEWS. You may have noticed lately that I’ve been a bit quiet on here and on social media….

…well….

I got a new job!

I don’t want to give specifics, but let’s just say I’m in the same field and I’m pretty darn happy here. While the job is still very new to me, I feel like I can honestly look forward to work every day. I have to admit, I had some new job jitters. What if I wasn’t smart enough for it? What if I didn’t make friends?

I had my doubts, because I held my previous job for almost 5 years. It’s what I knew, and this new job is a pretty big change for me. However, so far I’m loving it. LOVING it. Everyone I’ve met at my new job is very friendly, and it’s just a different, yet refreshing dynamic. It reminds me a lot of my first job out of college, which I loved (I had to resign from my first job, since I moved to a new city).

I’ve been in such a cheerful mood because of this change (amongst other things), and you guys probably know that “Happy” song by Pharrell? Well, yeah…that’s my theme song right now. In fact, I caught myself humming this in Target the other day…haha!

Also, another reason to be happy is that my birthday is coming up. I’m pretty sure I’ll be eating cake all weekend, so it’s fitting to share this recipe for cupcakes. :-) I made these for the Opal Apple dessert party, and they were SO good! I love mini cupcakes, because I can enjoy one and feel like I had dessert, or like some others who had these, enjoy 5 or 6 of these without too many judge-y stares. :-P

This made about 40 mini cupcakes for me, so it’s more than enough to go around for a party. :-)

Apple Spice Mini Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction & frosting is an original 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Opal Apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 batch spiced cream cheese frosting
  • Optional: 1 batch caramel sauce (for drizzle)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a mini cupcake pan by lining each cup with a mini cupcake liner and set the pan aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars together in a medium-sized bowl, until well-combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time (beating for 30 seconds with each addition), until smooth. Add the whole milk and vanilla extract to the batter, whisking until everything is combined.
  3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring the batter gently until just combined. Fold in the finely chopped apples.
  4. Fill the mini cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full with cupcake batter (using either a small scoop or a piping bag, to make it easier). Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Remove the mini cupcakes from the oven and allow them to completely cool before frosting.
  5. Once cooled, generously swirl on the frosting, and if you’d like, drizzle the cupcakes with a simple caramel sauce. If you’re not serving these immediately, refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve. Enjoy!

Disclosure: I’m a 2014 brand ambassador for Opal Apple. I was compensated in the form of free products, a party kit with all printed materials necessary for the party, and a gift card. All opinions are 100% my own.

Mini Apple Tartlets

applepietarts

Well, yesterday was Mardi Gras. Usually, I’m super jazzed about it, but I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, and Mardi Gras sort of just snuck up on me. I’m glad I didn’t get my hopes up too much about parading though…we had SLEET on Mardi Gras Day. SLEET…ICE…they closed roads…in Louisiana…in March! Let that sink in for a little bit. This winter has been a weird one..

Now that Mardi Gras season is over, and I’m mourning over an empty king cake box, I have to face what I’m giving up during the lenten season: candy and soda. I was really considering all refined  & artificial sugar, but I really want it to be something I know I can handle. Soda is hard enough (diet coke addict here!), but candy during Easter season? Ugh…I’ll buy a box of Cadbury eggs for the week after Easter. :-P Hopefully, this will kick my sweet tooth to the side for a while…I really need to stop craving Reese’s cups darnit!

Speaking of the sweet tooth, I’m still thinking about these mini tartlets that I made for my Opal Apple dessert party. They were so simple to make, and they made quite a bit for a party! I think this would be a perfect dessert to throw together at the last minute, and if you have some caramel sauce or ice cream lying around, they would be perfection on these!

Mini Apple Tartlets
Source: Opal Apples

Ingredients:

  • 2 Opal apples, peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 2 packages (containing 15 each) mini phyllo dough cups

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, add all ingredients, except for the phyllo dough cups. Heat the apple mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cover. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes and remove the mixture from the heat.
  3. Once slightly cooled, fill each phyllo cup with a tsp. of the apple filling. Place the cups on the prepared baking sheet, and bake them for 8-10 minutes. They’re best served warm, but also taste great at room temperature!

Disclosure: I’m a 2014 brand ambassador for Opal Apple. I was compensated in the form of free products, a party kit with all printed materials necessary for the party, and a gift card. All opinions are 100% my own.