November 16, 2014

Cranberry Bliss Bars

These were called White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies when I found them, but they looked like Cranberry Bliss Bars to me!

I added the white chocolate drizzle and then the cranberries, which does not look as pretty as if you do it the right way--cranberries first, THEN white chocolate drizzle...Oops.
Normally blondies would have me responding, "Why blondie when you can brownie?!" But, I mean cranberry bliss bars are obviously in a category of their own.

These are super sweet and decadent, but the tangy cream cheese and cranberries help balance out the the white chocolate.

As I'm sure you know, these are the perfect holiday treat!

Cranberry Bliss Bars
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, melted.
  • 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 oz. chopped white chocolate (or chips)
  • 5 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 oz. chopped white chocolate (or chips), melted.
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  1. For bars: Grease a 8 in. square baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix melted butter with brown sugar. When it has cooled to room temperature, mix in egg and vanilla. 
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Gradually stir dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix in 1/4 cup cranberries and 3 oz. white chocolate. The batter will be very thick.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking dish. Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted
    near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. For frosting: beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate and beat until blended. Frost the bars. Sprinkle with chopped cranberries and drizzle with remaining white chocolate. Cut into wedges and store in the refrigerator.
Note: This recipe easily doubles to fit a 13"x 9" pan. In that case, 1 package cream cheese (8 oz) will do. 

November 2, 2014

Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

I love pumpkin. (See links below.) I love that in the fall you can find a pumpkin version of almost everything (especially at Trader Joe's). This Food Network recipe is a fun and easy twist on a classic. It's only subtly pumpkin-y. The original recipe calls for cheese tortellini, but I think a butternut squash or other type would be great as well.

Related recipes:
Milnot Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with White Chocolate Mascarpone Filling
Molasses Cookie and Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches
(GF) Pumpkin Cheesecake

Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce
  •  Kosher salt
  • 2 9-oz packages of cheese (or other flavor) tortellini
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for topping (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. In the meantime, heat the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until slightly soft (about 2 minutes). Add the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring 1 minute. Stir in the cream and bring to a low boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low; simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes). Stir in the cheese and cook until thick, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I found myself adding quite a bit.)
  4. Add the tortellini to the skillet and toss with the sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Divide among bowls and top with more cheese and  parsley. 
Serves 4

October 26, 2014

(GF) Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin. It makes just about everything better, don't you think? This is a Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe that I tweaked ever so slightly to be gluten free. I didn't do the caramel topping, but I bet it's delicious. The cheesecake is very rich on it's own, so I don't think it's really necessary. But, then again, sometimes you might just need a little caramel...

(GF) Pumpkin Cheese Cake
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, divided
  • 38 or 1 1/2 cups (gluten free, optional) ginger snaps, finely crushed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 4 pkg (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 25 caramels (optional)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees. Chop 1/4 cup nuts finely; place in medium bowl. Add ginger snap crumbs and butter; mix well. Press onto bottom of 13x9 inch pan.
    Crush cookies in a food processor, or just smash with a rolling pin.
  2. Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with mixer until blended. Add pumpkin, spice, and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
  3. Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours.
  4. Optional topping: microwave caramels and milk in microwaveable bowl on high for 1 1/2 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Spoon over individual servings of cheesecake. Sprinkle with remaining nuts.
  5. Serve with whipped cream. 
Makes 12 Servings

October 5, 2014

Mocha Shortbread Cookies

Yes, we are still alive. You may have been wondering, since we haven't posted in quite some time. Actually, Amber hasn't been doing so bad, but I surely get an F for posts in the last year or so.

In fact, when I went to use my stand mixer today, it literally had cobwebs in it. Yes, in the literal sense of the word literal. Sadness!

But, we're back in business. I've actually made a few things in the not-so-distant past, but I just haven't been posting. I'm hoping that will change, starting today!

I love shortbread (maple pecan shortbread), and this was an interesting twist. It was actually a plan B recipe, but it turned out great. Simple, tasty, and not too sweet. Would've been perfect with some homemade whipped cream... and some hot chocolate... or ice cream!

Mocha Shortbread
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons good-quality instant espresso powder (Starbucks VIA is a good one, but use less)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional for a Mexican mocha shortbread)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch round cake or springform pan with parchment paper. 
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir in espresso.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until pale and creamy. Add confectioners' sugar and beat well. Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed until well combined.
  4. Pat dough evenly into pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until puffed at the edges and dark all over the top. Remove from oven, and let sit 5 minutes; then cut into wedges. Let cool completely on a rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.
Makes 8 cookies. Can be stored up to 1 week. 

May 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Chile Verde

OK so this isn't technically chile verde, I don't think. But it's what I call the product of this slow cooker concoction. It is so yummy it can go in tacos or burritos or quesadillas. Sky's the limit! Plus so very easy.

What's in it
1 Tbl veggie oil
3lb boneless pork shoulder/roast
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
16oz jar salsa verde
1/2 white onion thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 C fresh cilantro, torn

How it's made
Season pork with cumin and salt and pepper. Heat veggie oil in a very large skillet (preferably in cast iron). Sear outside of pork roast on all sides.
Transfer roast to your slow cooker and cover with rest of ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove roast to cutting board and discard fat, then pull apart with two forks. Place back in cooker and add cilantro, stirring all together.

Serve on fresh tortillas with lime, cabbage, avocado, etc.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my slow cooker? Especially the one with the timer? Oh how I love it.

I've always come across recipes for lasagne and other casseroles for the slow cooker, and for some reason my brain always translated it into looking something like what you might eat backpacking out of a freeze dried food pouch. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. I finally took the plunge and made this lasagne, and it is just as good if not better than oven-baked. And so easy to assemble since it is vegetarian!

So, the next time you are wondering what to make for dinner, and you would like to have some (lots) of leftovers with that dinner, make this lasagna!

What's in it
2 15oz containers park skim ricotta cheese (or you can substitute for cottage cheese, an old trick)
1 10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or use fresh!)
8 oz (or more) sliced mushrooms (mix it it up with crimini, portabella, etc)
1/4 C (or more) chopped fresh basil (add parsley too if you like!)
salt and pepper to taste
1lb part skim mozzarella, shredded
1/2 C (or more) parmesan cheese, shredded
32 oz jar marinara sauce
12 or so lasagna noodles (not no-boil)

How it's made
Stir ricotta and vegetables including herbs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper (and some chili flakes if you're feeling adventurous). In a medium bowl combine mozzarella and parmesan.
Spread about 1/2 C marinara sauce on the bottom of your slow cooker (6qt or so). Cover with single layer of noodles, breaking in pieces to fit enough to cover the sauce. Spread half ricotta mixture over noodles. Top with 1/3 remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 remaining mozzarella mixture. Repeat layers of noodle, ricotta, sauce, mozzarella. Top with noodles, then remaining sauce and mozzarella mix.
Cover and cook on low 4 hours. Uncover and let rest 15 minutes to allow liquid to absorb.

I have not yet tested with meat, but it seems like italian sausage would be a good addition, as well as extra veggies like shredded carrot.

March 5, 2014

Kale Pesto

Oh Kale, you eluded me for so long, and I think we have finally come to terms. You are not quite in the 'love' category like your siblings brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, but no longer in the hate category. Now we are going to introduce you to our son, and make him love you from the start.

What's in it
1/2 C kale, rinsed and chopped
1/4 C basil, rinsed
1/2 C walnuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C olive oil

How it's made
Boil a pot of water, and add kale to cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile prepare an ice water bath, and submerge cooked kale in water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and squeeze out any excess water.

In a food processor, chop garlic. Then add kale, basil, walnuts and cheese. Pulse until combined and well pureed. Gradually add olive oil while food processor is running. Combine well, and add more olive oil if necessary. Store in airtight container in fridge (add a thin layer of oil to the top to preserve color) or freeze.

Enjoy on pasta, pizza, quinoa burgers, chicken sandwiches...

Quinoa Burger

I LOVE Quinoa!!! I liked it from the first taste a few years ago, but didn't quite know what to do with it. Then I finally figured out you could basically sub it out for lettuce in a salad and toss with French Vinaigrette, and that power salad sustained me through a year of breastfeeding my son. Fast forward a year and I sign up for Pintrest, and the first thing I see is a recipe for Quinoa burgers. Oh yum.

These versatile 'burgers' are so easy to make, and you can sub out ingredients fairly easily, to use whatever you have on hand. They are so flavorful and healthful, and a fun alternative to your run of the mill burger. Even my husband loved them (I assume he wasn't just humoring me).

Try them!

What's in it
1 C uncooked quinoa (I use red), rinsed
2 C chicken or veggie stock, or water
1 C cooked chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), chopped
1/2 C grated cheese, I recommend smoked Gouda or Parmesan
1/4 C panko bread crumbs
1/2 C (or 1 medium) carrot, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced
minced garlic
1 egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
salt & pepper
slider buns or rolls, or standard hamburger buns
avocado, cheese and other yummy toppings

How it's made
Cook quinoa and stock (bring to boil then simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed, fluff with fork). Set aside to cool, can be done in advance.

In a large bowl, mix together cooked quinoa, chickpeas, cheese, panko crumbs, carrot, onion and garlic. Mix until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then mix in egg. Form into patties appropriate to the size of your bun, and be sure to squeeze them into a firm patty.

Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large nonstick pan or cast iron skillet (or 2 to be twice as fast). Add patties and cook on one side until crispy, then carefully flip. If they come apart when flipped you are not packing them enough! Cook other side until crispy. Repeat for remaining patties.


February 8, 2014

Maple-Gingerbread Cake with Salted Maple-Caramel Sauce

 Maple is a perennial favorite around here, and this recipe from Bon Appetit is a creative twist on the usual flavor combinations. I cut this recipe out of the magazine in the fall of 2013, but looking back through my recipe books, I actually found a version that they printed back in 2010. There is a reason this one has stuck around.

Maple sugar can be a little hard to track down, and it is a bit pricey. Trader Joe's used to carry it, but sadly doesn't anymore. I found maple sugar at a local upscale grocery chain, but I have a note that the Joy of Baking says you can substitute 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 2 teaspoons maple extract for 1 cup of maple sugar. (I have not yet tried this.)

The creme fraiche in the frosting makes this very creamy and rich. The maple-caramel is absolutely decadent, but it really makes the cake.

Maple-Coated Pecans
  • 3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 1/4 cup Grade B pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled creme fraiche
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  •  6 tablespoons powdered sugar
Salted Maple-Caramel Sauce
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 drops imitation maple extract
Maple Coated Pecans
  1. Place large piece of foil or parchment on work surface. Combine nuts and maple syrup in heavy medium skillet (not nonstick) over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and toss to coat. Cook until syrup is dark amber and almost cooked away, thickly coating the nuts--about 3 1/2 minutes. 
  2. Scrape nuts onto covered work surface, quickly separating clumps. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool until coating is hard, about 1 hour.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Combine first 4 ingredients in food processor; add ginger. Blend until ginger is finely ground, about 1 minute. In a mixer with a large bowl, beat maple sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. (Batter may look curdled.) 
  2. Stir 3/4 cup hot water and molasses in a small bowl. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture in 4 additions, alternating with molasses mixture in 3 additions.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans (about 2 1/2 cups each). Bake until tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks.
  1. Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar. Whisk until sugar melts and mixture is thick and boiling, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often. Boil, whisking often, until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon and is reduced to 1 cup (another 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. Whisk in salt and extract. Cool.
  1. Combine creme fraiche, cream and both sugars in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very thick and stiff.
  1. Cut around sides of cake pans; turn cakes out onto racks. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 1 1/3 cups frosting. Drizzle with  3 tablespoons caramel sauce.
  2. Top with second cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting over entire cake and chill for 15 minutes to create a crumb coat. 
  3. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons caramel sauce. Cover and chill cake for at least 1 hour.
  4. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing. Press pecan pieces into sides of cake. Serve cake slices with caramel sauce drizzled on top!

January 23, 2014

Chocolate Cheesecake (Dairy Free)

For almost a year I've been dairy free, due to the complications of feeding an infant with dairy intolerance. It's been a challenge, but there are some bright spots such as this super yummy chocolate cheesecake that is, believe it or not, dairy free.Lauren found it and asked me to make it for her birthday. I wish I knew about it sooner for my own birthday!

What's in it

For Crust:
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups crushed chocolate cookies- I used Trader Joe's O's (chocolate chocolate) and scraped out the insides
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance 
For Cake:
  • 1/4 cup Dairy Free Chocolate Chips 
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (canned)
  • 3 (8oz) packages Vegan cream cheese (like tofutti)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For Topping:
  • 3/4 cups Dairy Free Chocolate Chips 
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (canned)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How it's made

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan (unless it is nonstick). Pulse your crushed cookies in a food processor until size of small crumbs. Mix in melted Earth Balance, and add 2 Tbl sugar. Mix together and press into pan and up the sides. (Add more melted Earth Balance if necessary). Bake 10-12 minutes and let cool. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.Warm the coconut milk in microwave and add chocolate chips. Stir until melted.In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and 3/4 C sugar until blended. Add cocoa powder and mix until well blended, and add eggs and mix to combine. Stir in vanilla and melted chocolate mixture. Pour into baked (and cooled) crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes until center is just set. Cool the cake.Once cooled, make the topping: Warm coconut milk and vanilla in a microwave. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Pour over top of cake. Cool until set, firm up in refrigerator. This will take several hours. Embellish with fruit or nuts or candies if you like!