Watermelon & Mint

Who would have thought that such a simple addition to fruit could completely change the taste and most likely how you’ll ever eat it!

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INGREDIENTS: 

  • Watermelon, cubed
  • Fresh mint, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Place cubed watermelon in a bowl and sprinkle the mint on top. Sit back and enjoy, yep…it’s that simple and I promise you’ll never look back!

Measurements were left out intentionally because you can make a small bowl or a giant one for a party!

Blueberry Banana Bread

This low-fat banana bread isn’t lacking in flavor or moisture!  Go ahead and give it a try; you’ll see what I mean.  Don’t fear adding tasty additions such as blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips (it’ll add some fat), peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, etc…keep in mind they’ll add more fat but we all must indulge a little.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter, softened
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup fat free milk
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar and butter in a bowl, using a mixer beat the two together at medium speed until well blended.  Add banana, milk, sour cream and egg whites, beat well.

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Measure out the flour, be sure to level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture little by little until well blended.

If adding blueberries, you’ll want to fold them in now.

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Spray your loaf pan with cooking spray and add the batter.  Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick  inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow the pan to cool then flip over to remove the banana bread.

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Enjoy warm or cold!  I love adding raisins and walnuts to mine, the crunch of the walnuts adds texture, not to mention walnuts are healthy!

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It’s National Cheesecake Day!!!

It’s National cheesecake day, who doesn’t love a creamy, velvety smooth dessert? Go ahead and whip up your best cheesecake recipe or try mine you won’t regret it.  Top your cheesecake with fruit or make mini cheesecake cups with a chocolate peanut butter topping, fruit, nutella, etc…the options are endless!  Go ahead and indulge!

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Pictured on the left is original cheesecake and on the right, cheesecake cups topped with chocolate peanut butter topping.

Cheesecake

My husband loves a plain NY cheesecake; forget the berries, fruit drizzle, whipped cream etc…literally plain cheesecake.  For his birthday I wanted to make him just that.  This time I baked it using the water bath method and mission accomplished!  Such a delicious outcome!  The Water helps almost steam the mixture which in turn yields a creamy and decadent cheesecake. 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Packages cream cheese
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1½ Cups sugar
  • 2 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tsp nutmeg
  • ½ Cup sour cream
  • 1 Tsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1 Tsp lemon zest (optional)

 

CRUST:

  • 2 cups graham crackers
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (add more or less depending on your taste)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees. Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature.  If you’re using a springform pan, cover the outside bottom with foil.  This will help avoid water getting into it when you’re baking it. 

To prepare your crust; take your graham crackers and place them in a gallon size plastic bag.  Using a rolling pin, roll over the crackers until they are the consistency of powder.  Add the crumbs to your spring pan.  Melt the butter and pour over the crumbs.  Mix together and begin pressing the crumbs down to form your crust. Sprinkle a light dusting of sugar over the crumbs or you can incorporate into the crumb mixture.

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Bake the crust for about 10 minutes.  Then set aside. 

To your mixing bowl add the cream cheese mix on a low speed.  Add sugar and beat on a low speed until smooth.  Scrape the bowl and add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice and the eggs, one at a time.    

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Add the cream cheese to the springform pan.  Place a dish cloth on the bottom of the baking dish and place the springform pan on top of the towel.  Set the baking dish in the oven and pour hot tap water into the baking dish, being careful not to get water in your cheesecake. 

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Bake until the center is firm, but wiggles like jello when you tap the sides.  Once it cools it’ll firm up, depending on your over could take about 1hr 15min. 

Remove the springform pan from the baking dish and allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature.  Gently remove the outer part of the springform pan and place on a platter with a cover.  Place the cheesecake in the fridge overnight.  The cheesecake will be ready to eat after an hour or two in the fridge. 

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Tasty Tips:  the towel in the baking dish helps the water from evaporating.  Feel free to top this delicious cheesecake with macerated berries, fresh fruit, whipped cream or anything your heart desires.  On this particular occasion I used the wedding topper from his groom’s cake 🙂  

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

I had the pleasure of tasting sweet potato cupcakes on my first visit to Washington, DC last year (the picture below was my first sweet potato cupcake).  The food truck was Cupcake Joy (www.cupcakejoy.com) and WOW what I had been missing out on!  They were the perfect combination of flavor and not at all what I had in mind; although I’m not sure what I was expecting.  One of the gals in my training class decided to research a recipe and recreate that delectable treat.  The recipe she found was from the Food Network website.  As I tend to do, I tweaked an ingredient here and there but mainly followed the recipe, given that it was the first time I was making these.  I made these delicious cupcakes for Thanksgiving last year and our guests couldn’t get enough.  You must make these delectable treats this fall, you will not be disappointed!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • One 16-ounce can sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
  • Candied Pecans, recipe follows

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, this recipe makes 18 but I made 12 regular sized cupcakes and mini cupcakes with the remaining batter. 

Make the sweet potato puree by processing the sweet potatoes in a food processor. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Add the dry ingredients. Whisk in the sweet potato puree. Fill each cupcake in the prepared pan three-quarters full of batter.

Bake until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

Assembly: Frost the cupcakes with the Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. Sprinkle with the Candied Pecans.

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BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 sticks butter, at room temperature (original recipe calls for 3 but I used 2)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the butter and beat until well incorporated. Add the light brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

CANDIED PECANS:

  • Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat the egg white in a bowl until frothy; whisk 4 teaspoons water and the vanilla extract into the egg. Stir the sugar, cinnamon and salt into the egg mixture. Add the chopped pecans, stir to coat completely. Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet. Bake the pecans, stirring about every 20 minutes, until the coating forms a glaze, about 1 hour. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.  Pay attention while you’re baking from personal experience they can go from done to burned, in an instant.

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Sweet Tips: Feel free to use a regular cream cheese or vanilla frosting.  For your topping add a sprinkle of nutmeg, or utilize crystalized/candied ginger.  The pecans added a nice crunch, but you can modify as you like.  This recipe would make a wonderful bundt cake for Thanksgiving or any fall occassion, you can also make mini bundt cakes as favors for your party guests.  Remember recipes are a guide; allow your imagination to flow!

Original recipe courtesy of The Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sweet-potato-cupcakes-brown-sugar-cream-cheese-frosting-candied-pecans-recipe/index.html

Vanilla Berry Cake

Vanilla Berry Cake.

Vanilla Berry Cake

This year for Easter I volunteered to make desserts for our potluck brunch.  I do have quite the sweet tooth (although I contain myself), but from time to time I can’t resist a vanilla pastry, especially vanilla cake with a berry filling  (and brownies, who can resist a brownie)!    This recipe is all about the French Vanilla Cake with Triple Berry Filling.  I must admit, I took a shortcut and used boxed cake mix (shame on me), I did add a few enhancements to give it the homemade touch.  The result, a moist and delicious dessert. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box French Vanilla cake mix (ingredients as listed; eggs, oil, water)
  • 1 Jar triple berry preserves/jam
  • 4oz  Applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Strawberries (3 whole, about 10 sliced)
  • Butter cream icing

 Directions:

Make the cake as instructed on the box, when adding the water only add 1 cup and add the applesauce in place of the remaining water.  This will add the moistness of the cake.  Bake the cake as instructed on the box.  I used a round 9″ baking pan but feel free to use square, rectangle or cupcakes. 

Once the cake is cooled, using a cake leveler cut the cake into two layers.   Slide the top layer onto a plate or cookie sheet and put to the side.  Using a piping bag and plain tube cake decorating tip (larger one) create a border on the bottom layer (with the butter cream icing).  Once your frosting border is set, spread the preserve/jam onto the bottom layer.  The frosting helps contain the preserves/jam to avoid it from slipping out and mixing when you’re decorating.  Now place the top layer nicely centered on top of the preserves/jam.  You’re now ready to frost your cake, this step I will leave up to you and your comfort/ease with frosting/decorating desserts.  

Once you’ve mastered the frosting process you’re ready to top your cake with the strawberries.  Place the strawberries on the cake when you’re ready to serve, in order to avoid having water on your frosting from the strawberries.  Be creative in your decoration, top your cake with sliced strawberries, place them around the cake, etc…possibilities are endless.  You can also add all the berries found in the preserves/jam.

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My Tips:  Substitute half of the water with half fruit juice in the cake mix; it’ll add another level of flavor and moisture.  This would be a great cake for a 4th of July party, you can use the 9×13 baking pan and place blueberries on the corner as your star section and line the rest with raspberries or chopped strawberries. 

 Mini cupcake verion (also filled with berry preserves/jam). 

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Wilton’s Butter Cream Icing

Ingredients:

Makes:  About 3 cups of icing.

Instructions:

Step 1:  In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Step 2:  For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Step 3:  For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

Step 4:  For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and add 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing

My Tips:  Sifting the the powdered sugar is a must, if you skip this step you may end up with clumpy and heavy frosting.  I use regular vanilla extract which gives the frosting a soft cream color, which I personally prefer.  

Nutella and Greek Yogurt Dip

Boy oh boy…the uses for Greek yogurt are never ending!  Which is a great thing; lower calories, zero fat; you can’t go wrong.  Little by little I’m finding more and more uses for Greek yogurt and it’s totally worth it.  I looked through a couple recipes on how to make the dip and ended up using my own measurements.  This is possibly the simplest, tastiest chocolate dip you’ll every make (if there’s a simple one someone tell me!). 

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt

 DIRECTIONS:

Add the Nutella and yogurt and whisk (use an electric it’s faster & easier) until well combined and creamy.  That’s it!  Serve with beautiful in-season strawberries and enjoy!  Feel free to dip other fruits as well, you can’t go wrong 🙂  

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Side Talk: You can add more or less Nutella and yogurt depending on your preference of taste.    

S’Mores Pops

As odd as this may sound, I had my first true s’more experience this past summer on a camping trip. With that said I had my first true camping experience this summer…bear in mind I’m in my 30’s. No, I didn’t live a sheltered life, but camping apparently wasn’t on the forefront. Needless to say, it was an amazing time and our dachshund Sonny seemed to genuinely enjoy each and every second of his 48 hour leash-less frenzy with nature!

 A few days after returning from our trip I had a sudden craving for s’mores. Not having a fire-pit readily accessible, I had to concoct a different way of curing this craving.  Having all the ingredients on had and having recently purchased sticks for cake-pops, I figured why not a s’more on a stick…Genius!

 

INGREDIENTS:  

DIRECTIONS:

Place marshmallow on a stick and set aside. Pour the finely crushed graham crackers on a plate. Heat the chocolate in microwave in 10-15 second intervals (chocolate can easily burn) especially one that’s not a “melting chocolate.” Stir after each 10-15 second interval to evaluate how much time is needed. Grab your marshmallow on a stick and dip into chocolate then immerse in the crumbs ensuring all of the chocolate is covered.  You can also grab a fork and dip in the chocolate then drizzle all over the remaining marshmallow. 

Keep in mind, the Hershey’s bar will not harden on the marshmallow; by covering the chocolate completely with the crumbs you’ll avoid having melted chocolate all over your counters.

 Now stick back and enjoy your s’mores pop!  

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Pumpkin Drop Cookies

I’m not too sure when this recipe surface but it caught my eye this year.  I made these delectable goodies for Halloween, of course modified the recipe by adding a few ingredients.  This may be the easiest cookie recipe you will ever find.  These little cookies are a cross between cake and cookie. They come out incredibly moist and flavorful! For the non-pumpkin lovers, give it a try you’ll be pleasantly surprised…my hubby was!

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INGREDIENTS:

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My Tasty Additions:

  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 sprinkle of nutmeg
  • 1 sprinkle pumpkin pie mix
  • 1 sprinkle

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin puree and cake mix until well blended. Creative part: you can separate your batter if you’d like to have a variety. I divided my mix in two and folded in about ½ cup chocolate chips and in the other batter I added about ½ cup of raisins and chopped walnuts.

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With a spoon grab a dollop of the mix and drop onto a greased cookie sheet (or ungreased stone bakeware). Bake for about 13-18 minutes, baking times will vary based on size of cookies and your oven. You can enjoy warm or room temperature!

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Tasty Additions: White or dark chocolate chips, Dried Cranberries, Raisins, Walnuts or Pecans, Macadamia nuts, or Toffee bits would all make for a tasty treat.  You can also top with a Hershey’s kiss instead of adding chocolate chips to the batter.

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Enjoy these simple and delicious cookies anytime!

 

Disclaimer: The ingredients/products featured in this recipe are my personal preference, I am not affiliated with any vendor and am not paid for featuring their products.