October 30, 2009

Caramel Apple Sugar Cookie Cheesecake Bars

I'm having a hard time coming up with a nice concise name for these treats, but you would too. Imagine-

A Golden Graham crust
Topped by a layer of Dorie's Sugar Cookie Dough
Followed by some home made apple pie filling
And they layered with a cream cheese filling
And more cookie dough
Then topped with caramel...
And some pecans for kicks. And because they are good for you, right?

Now come up with a better name for these and I'll make you a treat (if you're local!)

There are a lot of layers to these bad boys and you can make it how you like it- homemade, store bought, add nuts, whatever you'd like. I'd just encourage you to try it because the finished product is yummy and perfect for fall. I cut mine into little pieces and the portion size was just right. And with all those yummy layers, my husband didn't even miss some chocolate. That's a good dessert around here!

Have a happy Halloween and I'll be back soon with a picture of the kiddos in their costumes. Wait until you see what my mom made for my baby girl... she's going to be delicious!

Caramel Apple Sugar Cookie Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Picky Palate

3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Cups Golden Graham Cereal, ground in food processor

1 Batch of Dorie's Sugar Cookie Dough (or store bought if you are in a hurry)

8 oz softened reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

21 oz can apple pie filling (or homemade- I made mine in the microwave and this step only took me 10 minutes start to finish with my handy apple peeler and corer, I think it's worth it!)

1/4 Cup of Peter's Caramel or Kraft Caramels
1/2 Cup half and half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pulse cereal in a food processor until smooth then pour in melted butter while pulsing to combine. Press into an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with foil. Bake for 7 minutes then remove from oven. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Crumble half of the cookie dough over partially baked crust.

Place cream cheese, sugar and vanilla into a mixer; beat until smooth. Pour over crumbled cookie dough layer. Top with the apple pie filling.

Carefully spoon over remaining cookie dough, breaking off into little pieces evenly over top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes clean from center. Let cool completely then cut into squares (I cut it into a 5 by 5). Melt caramels and half and half according to package directions. Drizzle over each bar. Refrigerate leftovers.

Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookie Dough
from Dorie Greenspan- see the full recipe on page 146 here
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly. Add in dry ingredients slowly mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Quick Apple Pie Filling-
Note- I reduced this and just used four or five apples that I had on hand, but any of this leftover certainly tastes good enough to out of the bowl or with some ice cream!

About 3 pounds Fuji apples
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg (optional)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

Peel, core, and slice apples into medium, microwave proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for five minutes. Let cool slightly then stir in other ingredients and mash with potato masher until desired consistency is reached.

October 26, 2009

Lasagna Rolls for World Pasta Day

I read that today is world pasta day and since I'd eat pasta everyday for the rest of my life if my husband didn't mind, I figured a quick recipe was in order. This recipe from Giada is customizable and delicious. I was led to it initially because it wasn't smothered in tomato sauce that my tall man couldn't eat. I plated the lasagna rolls on a bed of marinara for everyone else- and I think that really made the dish- but you could leave it out if your husband is like mine! This is a fun variation from the regular sausage and tomato lasagna we normally eat- the prosciutto and spinach are flavorful and delicious... even to my two year old. Happy World Pasta Day!

Lasagna Rolls

from Giada De Laurentis

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the b├ęchamel sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

October 13, 2009

Allspice Crumb Muffins

I love muffins and will take them over cupcakes any day (which is funny since I love frosting and that's often all that separates the two). I've made this recipe before without Allspice and called them "Snickerdoodle Muffins" for my Snickerdoodle-loving brother. I'd never tried Allspice before but really liked the flavor of these muffins (it reminded me of cloves), especially with the subtle, clean taste from the lemon zest. I guess it goes without saying that my son LOVED these muffins since he couldn't hardly keep hands off them (and now you can see that tried to use my rug as a back drop, my apologies). You can find the recipe here, on page 16, or at Kayte's blog.

I'd suggest making half the crumb topping, not overfilling the muffin tins, which you should well grease (I should have made 15 or so instead of 12), and using cinnamon or nutmeg if you are scared of the allspice. Really though, I'd spring for a new jar next time you're at the store. And if you're feeling sneaky- sub half the flour for whole wheat flour and with the spice coloring the muffins, your husband will be none the wiser. See the other (surely more beautiful) versions at the Tuesdays with Dorie site.

I also have the giveaway winner to announce. Congrats Liz (I want the recipe for your vanilla cream, by the way) and thanks to everyone for their yummy snack suggestions. I'm going to try to implement some of them because as much as I wish muffins and pudding were the perfect snack, they aren't going to get me into my skinny jeans any time soon! And you all know that isn't going to stop me from making them both, haha!

October 6, 2009

Split Level Pudding and a giveaway!

Pudding is one of my all time favorite desserts (or breakfasts for that matter) so I was beyond happy when my baby consented to nap while I whipped up this quick treat. I'll admit I used to wonder what the point was in making pudding when the boxed stuff tastes so good. I really do still like Jello Vanilla Pudding. I've become a believer, though. It's also pretty simple to make this delicious pastry cream and gets quicker and easier every time. I skipped the food processor for the sake of dishes, opting for the sieve instead. It came out great and really, it's easy enough that you should try it. I'm guessing you have the ingredients on hand right now. And writing about the process is making me want to whip up some more. It's that delicious (and simple!)

This pudding is so good that I feel like calling it pudding isn't enough. It's more than a regular vanilla pudding- it has a surprise chocolate layer, it's silky smooth, and with a few changes, I don't even feel that bad eating it. I replaced the whole milk with 2 percent, used "cashew cream" in the ganache (a mixture of raw cashews and water, blended until it resembles heavy cream), and omitted part of the butter. You won't notice the changes but I think you'll enjoy this delicious and easy dessert- with less guilt. Even so, I did feel a little guilty eating the extra pudding for breakfast. But sometimes you need something quick, you know? And with my little red ramekin was staring at me from the fridge, I went for it.

So this brings me to the giveaway from MyBlogSpark. These Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters are delicious and come in a flavor everyone will like. My husband loves these and that's a pretty glowing review since he's a serious snacker. This prize includes all the flavors of nut clusters (the roasted peanut is my favorite) and a few other goodies (you can bet my son already grabbed that flashlight and is napping with it as I type this!) If you'd like to try these, you can grab a coupon here.

To enter, leave a comment letting me know what your favorite snack is- be it pudding or something else. I won't judge (and I could use some ideas- my hands are full a lot lately and my tall man's stomach is always rumbling!)

Giveaway will end Sunday night (10/11/09) at midnight, AZ time. I'll randomly choose one winner (US residents only for shipping purposes). Please make sure you're profile is linked to your blog or email or something so I can get a hold of you!

'Lighter' Split Level Pudding
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

For the chocolate layer:
2 ounces of bitter sweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream (or cashew cream, see below)

Bring the cream to a boil, pour over chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir gently to blend and divide mixture between the pudding cups. Set aside.

For the vanilla layer:
2 1/4 cups 2% milk
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a glass measuring cup, boil the milk in the microwave. Meanwhile, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Whisk until combined. After the milk boils, slowly pour a small amount into the saucepan while whisking. Continue whisking and drizzle in the rest of the milk. Once thoroughly combined, place over medium heat and keep whisking until the pudding thickens and starts to bubble (two or three minutes).

Mix in the vanilla and then whisk in the butter. Scrape the pudding into a sieve and push through to catch any lumps, or pulse in the food processor if desired. Divide the pudding over the chocolate filled ramekins, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate a couple hours (or enjoy warm- that's delicious too!)

Cashew Cream (adapted from Enlightened Cooking)

1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cold water

Place the nuts and cold water in a blender and blend at high speed for 2 minutes. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides. Blend at least 1-2 minutes longer until the mixture is smooth (mixture will be very thick; add 1-2 additional tablespoons water, if needed, to blend until smooth).

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and cool slightly. Stir in cashew cream until well-blended.

October 1, 2009

Halloween Popcorn Balls

Fall is here. For me, that means it was actually cool enough to take the "kids" (ahem, still weird I have two now) on a walk this morning. It's still supposed to pass 100 for a little while but I'm happy that it's cooling down in the morning and at night. Soon I'll break out my "winter clothes"- jeans and a long sleeve t shirt, maybe even a cardigan- that have been hanging in the desolate outreaches of my closet. So with fall officially here, I thought it would be fun to make popcorn balls. We had some Halloween M&Ms that we had to buy since they were predominately orange- my son's absolute favorite color. We mixed them into a few of the balls and they were cute and festive. If you do that, I'd recommend carefully folding them in after you mix the popcorn and caramel together so they don't start to melt and get crushed. Regardless, it still tasted great. Chocolate chips or other little candies would also be really cute in these. If you could shape the balls while they were still a little warm, you could also roll them in sprinkles for another cute touch.

I got this recipe from a friend in Utah a few years ago. She'd brought these to a party and they flew off the table- seriously. Every time I make these I wonder why I make them so rarely. Then I remember- it's because I don't want to have a heart attack before I hit 30. That said, they are crazy delicious- flavorful, soft and chewy, feature only pantry staples so it's no problem to whip them up, simple enough that my two year old helped out, and (on occasion) totally worth the calories. Go go!

Popcorn Balls

from Kelley Johnson

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup light karo syrup
1 can eagle brand milk (sweetened condensed milk)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and, stirring occasionally, bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 5 1/2 minutes, stirring just about constantly, being careful to scrape the bottom of the pan so it doesn't burn (I like to use a large silicone spatula). Be careful- the caramel is extremely hot! Let cool for one minute then pour over popcorn (see below). Stir to combine and shape into balls once it's cool to the touch.

For the popcorn-
1 cup of popcorn kernels to yield 2 large bowls of popped popcorn (use a popcorn popper or a large stainless steel bowl or wok a la Alton Brown- but don't use buttery, instant popcorn- you want the plain stuff here)