Baking

Mini Peanut Butter and Nutella Cheesecakes

One of the perks of being a student (and right now as I’m in the middle of college applications and interviews there don’t seem to be many) is that you get a long Christmas break. This is what I’ve done since Christmas:

  1. Stayed in my PJs all day. I got new pajama pants for Christmas (a tradition in my family). They are red with pink polka dots! My middle sister got the same ones so we’ve been matching for 4 days in a row.
  2. I got dressed briefly yesterday to go to the movies with the middle sister. We saw New Year’s Eve which was cute! It’s just a fun chick flick or as Celina said a “fluffy” movie.
  3. I painted my nails with the nail polish I got in my stocking. They are super sparkly and purple.
  4. I have eaten cinnamon rolls for breakfast and dessert for the past 3 days…but this morning I had to have cereal because they were gone :(
  5. I’ve worked out. Yesterday I did Jillian’s yoga meltdown with my mom. Today I am very sore.

Today I am hoping to finish up my second to last college application (maybe both of them! how cool would that be???). I have a meeting with an alumni of University of Pennsylvania for my college interview…I should probably shower and get dressed for that…meh.

But that’s enough about boring college stuff! On Christmas Eve, tablets we had dinner at my grandparents’ house. I brought these mini cheesecakes for dessert and they were a hit! They’re really easy to make and look so pretty and fancy. I made peanut butter ones and nutella ones. The overall consensus was that the nutella ones were better, healing so if I make these again I’ll just make them all nutella. But they were both great and this would be a great dessert to bring to a New Year’s party! I can’t believe it is almost 2012…it’s insane how quickly this year has gone by.

I just have to point out the adorable little snowman cupcake wrappers! I was so excited to get a chance to use them. I love cute things like this :) I hope you have a fantastic last week of 2011…I would encourage you to stay in your pajamas all day at least one day this week. And eat cake for lunch. Not that I did that yesterday…but if I had, gynecologist it would have been good. Very good.

Peanut Butter/Nutella Mini Cheesecakes

Adapted from Snappy Gourmet.

Ingredients:

1 cup finely crushed chocolate graham crackers
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, melted
2 (8oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter or 1/2 cup nutella or to make half a batch of each, 1/4 cup peanut butter and 1/4 cup nutella
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

For the Ganache:
Note
: I had a ton of ganache left over. You could easily halve these ingredients.
1 (12oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the graham cracker (or cookie) crumbs and butter. Press crumbs onto the bottom of the cupcake liners.
  3. If you are making all peanut butter cheesecakes or all nutella cheesecakes: In a large mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese, 1/2 cup peanut butter or nutella, sugar, flour, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs until well combined.
  4. If you are making half peanut butter and half nutella cheesecakes: In a medium mixing bowl, mix together one 8 oz. package cream cheese, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon flour, and 1/2 tsp vanilla until well combined. Beat in one egg until mixed in well. In a second mixing bowl, mix together the 1/4 cup nutella and the remaining sugar, flour, and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the remaining egg until mixed in well.
  5. Spoon cheesecake filling onto tops of crusts. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until set on top but still soft. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  6. When they are cooled completely, place chocolate chips and cream in small microwave safe bowl in microwave on high in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth. Spoon the chocolate on top of each cheesecake.
  7. Refrigerate cheesecakes for at least 3 hours or overnight. Store cheesecakes in refrigerator.

Note: Make sure the cream cheese is softened when you mix it in. If you’re using it straight out of the fridge, you can microwave it for 10-20 seconds to soften it.

Makes 12 Mini Cheesecakes.

Enjoy! :)

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Heaven in a Cinnamon Roll

Don’t argue with the title. I am dead serious here.

Pioneer Woman talks about these cinnamon rolls as if they are the best thing in the world, recipe so I thought I would make them for Christmas morning breakfast. I made the dough on the 24th and put it in the fridge. Even with making the dough a day in advance, it took a while to make these on Christmas morning. But it was SO worth it. We usually just make cinnamon rolls out of a can for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning but I can tell you that my family will never be able to go back to those inferior things!

Don’t worry about fat content, calories, gaining weight, health, or any of those nonsense things. Just make these. Tomorrow. You will be forever grateful…and eat cinnamon roll for every meal like I have been.

By the time we got up, opened presents, and I made these, it was 11am. We would usually have eaten around 2 but nobody was hungry! We decided to eat around 3 or 3:30 (which got pushed to 4:30 when the oven stopped working for a while). Needless to say, these rolls are very filling. My rolls ended up much bigger than Pioneer Woman rolls (I couldn’t roll the dough tight enough apparently) but they turned out absolutely delicious. These rolls are buttery, sweet, with a delicious maple frosting and light fluffy bread.

The New Year has not started yet! Eat cinnamon rolls and work out later :) Another recipe I want to try is Pioneer Woman baked french toast…I’m a reaaaal health nut ;)

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Frosting

Update: Check out this post for tips on making these, including how to make them ahead of time.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups 2% Milk
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packet
  • 4 cups (Plus 1/2 cup extra, separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (heaping) Salt
  • 3 sticks melted butter (don’t be scared!)
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon

MAPLE FROSTING:

  • 1/2 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1/8 cup Melted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Brewed Coffee (I omitted this and added a little extra milk instead)
  • Pinch of Salt

Directions:

  1. For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large pot over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm (about 1 hour). When the mixture is warm but not hot, sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.
  2. Add 4 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)
  3. When you’re ready to make the cinnamon rolls, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  4. To assemble the rolls, remove the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.
  5. To make the filling, pour the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.
  6. Beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight (I had issues rolling the dough. Butter was oozing out of the sides and I couldn’t roll it very tight. Don’t worry about it, they turn out wonderful). When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.
  7. With a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices (oops I think I cut mine bigger than this). One “log “will produce anywhere from 14 to 25 rolls. I only got 14, Pioneer Woman gets 20-25. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. Pioneer woman says each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls but I only put 4-5 in mine.
  8. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the counter for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.
  9. While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing: In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee (if you choose to add it), and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.
  10. Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor.

I found Pioneer Woman’s step by step instructions helpful…especially since I’m scared of working with yeast. Check them out if you’re unsure of how to do anything :)

Makes 14 big cinnamon rolls or 20-25 smaller ones.

Enjoy…and imagine you’re in heaven :)

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Christmas Recipe Round-Up

I love the food around Christmas. For my family’s Christmas dinner, sildenafil we have ham, Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole…basically all the things we have at Thanksgiving except we swap turkey for ham, add the Swedish meatballs, and take away the stuffing. Now that I’m reading a lot of food blogs, I’m finding that not everyone does a big meal like this on Christmas…some people do big meals on Christmas Eve or have other traditions, like Mexican food, on Christmas. Interesting! I thought everyone had a meal similar to Thanksgiving on Christmas Day. What does your family do?

Well no matter what you eat for dinner on Christmas, you definitely need to finish the day off with some tasty desserts! Here are some of my favorites that I have made this year.

1. Marshmallow Pie

I know pie is traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving, but this is one of my all-time favorites. It’s very easy to make and I haven’t met anyone who didn’t absolutely love it. Definitely one to think about for your Christmas desserts :)

2. Nutella Swirl Brownie Bites

Oh goodness. Brownie+nutella=heaven. These are great because they’re really easy to make- you can use a brownie box mix to save time and just swirl nutella on the top. If you’re going to anyone’s house to celebrate or any parties, these would be really easy treats to bring.

3. Oreo Truffles

My family always makes these around Christmas…I think we’ve made them four times already. They are insanely easy to make and one of the best-tasting things I’ve ever had!

4. Pumpkin Deliciousness Cake

Are you guys over pumpkin yet? Good. Me either. I stood in the kitchen eating piece after piece of this cake..it was just that good. It’s really easy to make (even though I kept messing up when making it!) and tastes aaamazing!

5. Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

Chocolate chip cookie dough + pretzel = heaven. The pretzel crust is buttery and salty and the chocolate chip cookie is gooey and sweet. This is the treat I mailed for the Great Blogger Cookie Exchange and loved how they tasted!

6. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cookies

These are cookies that taste like cookie dough. I’ll wait while that sinks in. Yep that’s what I said. The outside is like a soft, tasty chocolate chip cookie while the inside tastes like raw cookie dough. They’re incredibly simple to make and they are sure to impress everyone!

7. Peanut Butter and Pretzel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Keeping with the sweet and salty theme, these are, in my opinion, some of the best cookies I have ever made. They’re really easy to make, and you can add in whatever your heart desires! But I would recommend chunks of Dove chocolate and pretzel pieces. Mmm :)

8. Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies really have the “wow” factor. Everyone is amazed that a chocolate chip cookie is wrapped around an oreo! Make these perfect for the holidays by using red oreos.

9. Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Oh goodness. These mini chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting were insanely good. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcake, and a really tasty peanut butter filling. They’re adorable, especially when topped with a chocolate chip, and kids will be sure to love them!

10. Minty Kiss Brownie Bites

Take advantage of your favorite holiday limited-edition Hershey’s kisses! I used mint truffle kisses for these super simple brownie bites. Again, make these a speedy treat by using a box mix and placing a kiss on the top.

~

Tonight my sisters, grandparents, and I are doing our traditional Christmas Eve Eve celebration. We all get in the car in our PJs, drive to Sonic, eat dinner, and then drive around and look at all the pretty Christmas lights. It’s a really fun tradition :) Happy Christmas Eve Eve everyone! Hope it’s wonderful!

 

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Airplane Girl and Oreo Truffles

Yesterday was the day I heard whether or not I was accepted early into Brown University.

I knew I would hear at 4pm and all day was counting down to the hour. I kept praying that God would give me peace over whatever the decision was.

As 4pm neared, anemia I sat on the couch, waiting. I painted my nails to pass the time. I peed. I ate a granola bar. I sat there, feeling dizzy and slightly panicked.

My sister was sitting next to me. She was the only one who knew I was going to hear from Brown yesterday (she had 4:00 B written on her hand…in “code” so no one would know…cute :).

She turned to me and said “two minutes!”

I was flipping out and asked “What if it’s TERRIBLE news???”

She said “There’s no such thing as terrible news. Just good news, and not so good news.” <– she’s pretty smart that girl.

I tried to keep that in mind as I logged in to my Brown account. I had to click through many links before finally reading the letter.

“After a careful evaluation of your credentials, the Board of Admission has voted to postpone a final decision on your application.”

Sigh. I wish I could have said it was good news. But alas, not so good news it is.

I felt a lot of things after seeing that. Disappointment, frustration, rejection, sadness, anger, discouragement.

I was frustrated that I put so much time and energy into the application, an application that I thought was really strong, only to be rejected. I was disappointed that I didn’t get in, and that I now have to complete a lot of other applications to other colleges. I felt really discouraged, feeling that not getting in to Brown means I won’t get in anywhere. And I felt a little bit angry at God that I didn’t get in.

Me: Hey God, I was supposed to get in. Brown is perfect for me!

God: Umm I may not think so! You asked my opinion!

Me: I don’t like your opinion.

God: Well I don’t like your nailpolish.

Me: Well I don’t like the Old Testament!

God: Well your handwriting is messy!

Yeah…God and I have issues sometime. Or maybe it’s just me that has issues ;)

<Insert picture of yummy goody to diffuse the tension>  ;)

I’m feeling better about this now. Still upset, but ready to send in my other applications and be done with this whole process.

One thing that makes things a little easier is a story I heard when I was visiting Harvard this summer.

I visited Harvard with my grandparents, and we met up with a family friend who is the head of undergraduate physics. We were talking about how schools are so selective, and he told us about a girl he had met who had applied to the school. He said he was sure she’d get in because not only was she brilliant, but she had built her own airplane and flown it. But she wasn’t accepted to Harvard. And she was wait-listed at MIT. Uhh yeah, crazy! She eventually got in to MIT, and after her freshmen year was voted the Freshman of the Year. Things worked out for Airplane Girl, hopefully they’ll work out for me, too.

As I’m going through all this college stuff, I’m trying to stay positive, listen to God (we’re good now :), and remember Airplane Girl.

So, what do you do when you get disappointing news? You do something fun. Like make Oreo Truffles! I had these for the first time several years ago and thought they were absolutely incredible. I made them for my teachers for a little Christmas present and they all loved them! They couldn’t be easier to make..or more delicious to eat :)

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients:

1 Package Double Stuffed Oreos (I was tempted to use those crazy new triple stacker oreos, but resisted…next time ;)

8 oz. block cream cheese

1 package white or milk chocolate bark coating

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Almond flavoring (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend oreos until they make a coarse, coffee-like mixture.
  2. Mix oreos with softened block of cream cheese until if forms a smooth, cohesive mixture. Mix in a teaspoon or two of almond flavoring if you desire (NOT almond extract. You can use almond extract, but use much much less).
  3. Roll into small balls, placing them on wax paper or aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets.
  4. Refridgerate overnight, or put in the freezer for an hour.
  5. Melt the chocolate bark. I use milk chocolate bark, but find that it’s a little too sweet, so I mixed in some semi-sweet chocolate chips. It made the chocolate perfectly sweet, but does make the chocolate crack a little bit when hardened.
  6. Place the balls back on the cookie sheet to cool.
  7. Can be made several nights in advance. Store in the fridge.

Makes about 35-40 oreo truffles, depending on what size you make them.

Enjoy!

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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap before now! I found out about it from reading Love and Olive Oil, pilule and knew immediately that I wanted to participate.

The swap was created and hosted by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. This is the description of the swap: After you sign up, you receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. You then send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies, and then you receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers.

Umm how awesome is that??? Supremely awesome! I’ve never gotten cookies in the mail, or sent them for that matter. Most of the mail I get nowadays is from colleges (one college sent me gloves. I mean seriously. I know I’m awesome but I don’t want to go to your school. I will probably use the gloves, though! ;)

It took me a long time to figure out what cookie I wanted to send…there are so many awesome options! But after I saw a recipe for chocolate chip cookie bars with pretzel crust, I knew I had to make them. Baking the bars was really fun. I packaged them up and sent them off to Joanna from Go Ahead and Snicker, Nicki from Nick-Stirs, and Stephanie from Life Tastes Like Food.

It was really exciting when I started receiving cookies! I got two packages in one day! The first one I opened was from Renee at Casa del Kuchen. She sent me Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies that tasted so good, especially when I put them in the microwave! Look how pretty the packaging was :)

I looovvee chocolate cookies. Now I want to make some of my own!

The second package I opened was from Amy at Fearless Homemaker. She sent me Chai Snickerdoodles. I’d never had cookies like this before and they were yummy with an interesting flavor!

The third package I got came several days later from Erin at Big Fat Baker. She sent me Chocolate Rolo Cookies that were really yummy. I warmed them up and the caramel got all gooey and tasty.

I was left with so many wonderful cookies that I ended up bringing some of them in to school and sharing them with my friends :)

Here are the packages that I sent off!

I’d never sent cookies in the mail before, so hopefully they held up ok!

These are the bars I made. Mmmmm! Seriously these were super delicious. The chocolate chip cookie dough part was gooey and soft, and the buttery pretzel crust was amazing. I think my favorite part of the whole thing was eating the pretzel bits that fell off the bars! I made a double batch of bars to make sure I had enough to send out, but I ended up with tons of leftovers. My family ate some and then I brought some in for my English class…everyone loved them!

I would absolutely recommend that you make these bars for upcoming Christmas parties, or any time of the year! I know I’ll be making them again for sure. Here’s how you make them:

My littlest sister helped me make the bars. She started by helping me crush the pretzels into small pieces.

Here are the pretzel pieces with butter mixed in. Seriously I think this is the only way to eat pretzels haha :)

I have two pans because I made a double batch. Put the pretzel pieces in a 9 by 13 baking pan (lined with parchment paper) and bake for 8 minutes.

After that you make the cookie dough and gently press it on top of the pretzel crust. Bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

This is what the bars looked like when I took them out after 10 minutes to rotate them. I almost wanted to just eat it like this…but I resisted :)

Here are the finished bars! The cookie dough was still soft and gooey, and the pretzel crust was just incredible!

Don’t those just look so good???

You might remember this cute snowman from this post. I just love him! I have a lot of new Christmas props I’m going to be using in coming posts.

Now I know some of you are probably bummed that you didn’t get to participate in the swap this year. But don’t worry, you can go to this website to sign  up to get email notifications of next year’s swap http://eepurl.com/hsS-Y.

I want to thank all the people who sent me cookies, all the bloggers who particiated in this swap, and especially Lindsay and Julie from Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for putting so much time and effort into making this happen! This was such a fun experience for me and I’m sure for everyone else who participated! It was estimated that over 22,000 cookies were sent around the world in this swap which I think that is just incredible. This was the perfect way to kick-off my Christmas baking…there will be much more to come!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with Pretzel Crust

Ingredients for the Cookie Dough:

  • ¾ cups Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
  • ¾ cups Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • 1-½ teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract
  • 2-¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¾ teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 bag (11 Oz. Size) Semi-Sweet or Milk Chocolate Chips

Ingredients for the Crust:

  • 3-½ cups Pretzel Sticks, Crushed Into Tiny Pieces
  • ¾ cups Unsalted Butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Start by making the crust. Crush pretzel pieces either in a large ziplock bag and a mallet, or by using a food processor, until you have coarse pieces. Combine pretzel pieces with the melted butter, stirring to combine.
  3. Spread the pretzel mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes.
  4. While that’s baking, start on the cookie dough. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs and the vanilla, beating until just blended.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar/egg mixture, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  6. Drop large spoonfuls of the cookie dough and scatter it over the pretzel crust. Carefully and evenly spread the batter over the warm pretzels, gently pressing the dough down with your fingers.
  7. But the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
  8. Remove the pan wihen the bars are golden brown.
  9. When the bars have cooled completely, remove the bars from the pan by lifting up the parchment paper. Cut into bars and enjoy!

The original recipe says this makes 15 bars, but you could easily make double that, depending on what size you make the bars.

Source: Simply Scratch :)

Have a great week and happy baking! :)

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