Monday, January 26, 2015

Individual Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cheesecakes

It is no secret that I love desserts both large and small. While there is something satisfying about making and frosting a big ass cake, miniature desserts have my heart. Show me a palm sized hand pie and I will automatically squeal and say how cute it is. Smaller desserts are just cute. Plus they are... smaller, which means I can eat one or three in a single sitting. Right?

I made some mini cheesecakes for ya'll. This recipe makes six cupcake sized cheesecakes. It is perfect if you want to have cheesecake but don't relish the idea of having half a cheesecake sitting in your fridge (something that often happens in a house with just two people.) I combined one of Jeff's loves (cheesecake) with my love for Reese's peanut butter cups.

In this recipe we'll use cookies for the crust. No melted butter necessary.

The peanut butter batter bakes for just fifteen minutes. The less time between me and my dessert, the better.

Once the cheesecakes are completely cooled, they get topped with chocolate that has been melted together with a bit of coconut oil to create a shell similar to that of my coveted Reese's cups.

These are rich, glossy, portable and most importantly... cute.

Individual Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cheesecakes (small batch)
makes 6 cupcake sized cheesecakes
adapted from

9 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 c (heaping) creamy peanut butter
6 chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos or something similar... or any cookie you want!); filling removed
1/2 c chocolate chips + 1 teaspoon coconut oil, for topping
- - -
pre-heat oven to 375F and line a muffin tin with 6 liners (leave the remaining wells empty)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the cream cheese and sugar until no lumps remain
2. Add in vanilla and eggs; mixing on low until just incorporated
3. Add peanut butter and mix until fully combined
4. In the bottom of each lined muffin cup, place one sandwich cookie (I removed the filling of my Oreos but you definitely don't have to)
5. Divide the cheesecake batter equally among the 6 lined muffin cups (I use a large cookie scoop to make sure each cheesecake has the same amount of filling)
6. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes
7. Remove from the oven and allow cheesecakes to cool completely; refrigerate for at least two hours
8. In a microwave (in 30 second intervals) or over a double broiler, melt down chocolate chips and coconut oil until smooth and glossy
9. Spoon melted chocolate mixture over each cooled cheesecake and use the back of the spoon to make sure the entire top of each cheesecake is coated
10. Refrigerate cheesecakes until chocolate shell hardens (about 20 minutes) before enjoying

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cherry & Almond Granola Bars

A long time ago, I bought these oatmeal packets.

 I had just found out about baby Kaune and was thinking I am going to eat super healthy! Then morning sickness kicked in and I immediately had aversions to anything remotely healthy. So in my cupboard the oats sat. Then we moved. And for some reason, I moved the oats with us.

These oatmeal packets make the worst instant oatmeal... no matter what you add (brown sugar, nuts, berries) they still taste bland. However, they make really good granola bars!

This recipe makes granola bars that are slightly chewy and super flavorful. You can customize your bars by adding whatever kind of nuts/fruit you want. You could (should) add chocolate to the situation in the form of chips or a drizzle. Here I went with dried sour cherries and chopped almonds. These are the first of many granola bars to come out of my kitchen for sure!

Sour Cherry & Almond Granola Bars (chewy)
makes a 9x13" pan

3 1/2 c old fashioned oats**
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 c + 2 Tablespoons corn syrup or honey
1/4 c + 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 c dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (or a dried fruit of your choosing)
1 c raw almonds, coarsely chopped (or any other nut you like)
optional add ins: chocolate chips, toasted coconut, flax seeds, rainbow sprinkles....
** I used rolled oatmeal packets but regular oats work as well!
- - -
pre-heat oven to 325F; line a 9x13" baking pan with parchment
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together sugar, molasses, salt, oil, and corn syrup or honey; heat until sugar dissolves completely
2. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly before stirring in vanilla... it is important for this mixture to be cooled before adding to the dry ingredients, particularly if you have chocolate in the bars as the heat could cause the chips to melt!
3. In a food processor, pulse 3/4 c oats into a sandy powder; transfer to a large mixing bowl
4. To the oat powder add the cinnamon, almonds, remaining oats and sour cherries; stir to combine
5. Pour the (cooled) wet ingredients over the dry ingredients; use your hands to mix until evenly moistened
6. Transfer oat mixture to the prepared pan and, using damp hands, press into an even layer
7. Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes
8. Cool completely before removing from pan and slicing!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chocolate Layer Cake

So I have recently discovered that I like mayonnaise. For most of my life, the condiment grossed me out. I blame my first kitchen job at a deli where I had to "change out" the mayo container twice a day. To "change out" meant to transfer the old mayo to a new container on top of fresh mayo from the cooler. Picture it... my unskilled hands, a floppy spatula and room temperature mayonnaise... not the ideal combination. 

Over the years my spatula skills have gotten better, but until about a month ago I would only eat mayonnaise if it was barely there (like a thin layer on a sandwich.) 

And now, for some reason, I like it. In a not-so thin layer kind of way. It started out small, a little more mayonnaise on my breakfast sandwich. Aaaand now I have gone and put mayo all up in this chocolate cake. It sounds off putting, I know. But mayo is just eggs, oil and a dash of salt... ingredients you would normally add to a cake. It makes sense. It also makes for one of the best chocolate cakes I have eaten. 

See, you can't even tell there is a cup of mayo in the batter... am I selling it?

I frosted this decadent cake with a Swiss meringue buttercream. It is light, fluffy and flavored with a bit of milk chocolate . It is a dream. Get after it.

Chocolate Layer Cake
makes two 8" rounds

2 c AP flour
2/3 c cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 2/3 c sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 c mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups water
- - -
*pre-heat oven to 350F; line two 8" round cake pans with parchment paper and mist bottom/sides of pans with baking spray1. In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder; set aside
2. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3 minutes on high speed until light and fluffy
3. Add mayonnaise on low speed until blended
4. Alternately beat in flour mixture with water, beginning and ending with flour mixture
5. Divide batter equally between the prepared pans.
6. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean
7. Cool cakes in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pans; cool completely
8. Frost & fill the cooled cake layers as desired**

** I used a Swiss meringue buttercream that I flavored with melted milk chocolate. Recipe follows! Other good frosting options: basic buttercream, IMBC, or ganache!

Milk Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
frosts/fills a 2-layer 8" cake
3 egg whites
1 c sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 sticks butter (unsalted); softened but slightly cool
2 milk chocolate bars (3 oz total)
- - -
1. Over a double broiler, heat sugar and egg whites, whisking constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot to the touch (it will look opaque)
2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; add vanilla and whip on high for 7-10 minutes (until completely cool to the touch)... it will look like marshmallow!
3. While the meringue is whipping, melt your chocolate in the microwave; cool slightly
4. Once meringue is cool, add butter 1 Tablespoon at a time with mixer on medium speed
5. Increase mixer speed to high; buttercream will look curdled at first... KEEP WHIPPING it will soon become soft and glossy
6. Add melted/cooled chocolate to the buttercream once it comes together and mix on medium until the chocolate is completely incorporated
7. Frost away!

Monday, January 5, 2015


Between moving, planning for the new little one in our lives and the holidays I have been pretty dang busy! I have a chocolate cake recipe I am going to share tomorrow, so until then here is what I have been obsessed with lately.

1. Swimming. I have stopped running over the past month or so (the neighborhoods surrounding my house are HILLY) and recently rediscovered how much I love lap swimming. Until June you can find me in the pool. 

2. Milk. Sometimes with cookies, most often by itself. Can't. Get. Enough.

3. Berry smoothies. I have at least one a day... typically after I exercise. My freezer is stocked with frozen mixed berries.

4. Tea. I have been off coffee for about 4 months now (thanks a lot, baby...) Actually the transition was easy because the smell of coffee was repulsive to me during the first trimester. Lately my favorite teas have been the above pictured peach, orange spice and English breakfast (decaf.)

Maternity  Side Ruched Cowl Sweater-Liz Lange® for Target®

5. Liz Lange for Target. I only have a little bump (most days it looks like I just ate a big lunch) but it looks much cuter in clothes like this sweater that show it off a little.

6. Breakfast sandwiches. I have been enjoying the combo of fried eggs, melted cheese, mayonnaise and toasted bread on the daily.

7. At home workouts. I try to get in a few of these a week to keep strength training in my life.

8. The movie Chef. If you haven't seen this yet, do yourself a favor. I want to buy a panini press just to make Cuban sandwiches now.

9. Our view from the other side of the water. Jeff and I are both so happy to have made the move that we did. It was the best decision!

Tomorrow: CAKE!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Maple Walnut Blondies

As teenagers, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Applebees. We would stop by for the late night appetizers and desserts. My favorite thing to order was the maple walnut blondie. It came in a skillet complete with a big ass scoop of ice cream and a sauce that turned into caramel when it hit the hot plate. I would down that, some mozzarella sticks and then call it a night. Awww, memories.

The other night I made a version of the maple walnut blondies of my past. I slapped some ice cream on them while they were still warm and was promptly in heaven. You should do the same.

Now if only I had made mozzarella sticks to go with them. Next time...

Maple Walnut Blondies
makes an 8"x8" square or 8" round

1 stick (1/2 c) butter, melted
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
pinch salt
1 c AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2-3/4 c walnuts, chopped
- - -
1. Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8"x8" square (or 8" round) baking pan with parchment; mist lightly with baking spray
2. In a medium bowl combine the melted butter and the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth
3. Add in egg and extracts, mix well
4. Add salt, baking soda, and flour, stirring until a sticky dough forms
5. Gently fold in walnuts
6. Spread dough into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes; top will appear slightly cracked and the edges will just be beginning to brown
7. Cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream