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White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars – The Perfect Alternative To Birthday Cake

7 Feb

Every year I make my dad a birthday cake – usually This amazing chocolate version that always turns out perfectly. But this year, I wanted to switch it up and try something different. At first I was going to make a whole cheesecake. But – the two issues with that are – cheesecakes are HUGE – like REALLY BIG – the ones I was looking at called for 4 or 5 bricks of cream cheese. Like – wow. Nope. There’s only 5 of us – and one of that 5 is my son, who can only eat so much. Then issue #2 – I couldn’t find my springform pan. So – regular cheesecake was out. But I kept searching – and finally it paid off, when I found the PERFECT thing – these White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Not only was it a much smaller size, but it didn’t require a springform pan, AND it included the birthday boy’s favorite thing ever – RASPBERRY!

White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
(Recipe courtesy of Kraft)

Ingredients
12 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
3 oz. BAKER’S White Chocolate, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup red raspberry preserves

Directions
-Heat oven to 350ºF.
-Line 8- or 9-inch square pan with Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Melt 2 oz. chocolate as directed on package.
-Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add melted chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
-Bake 25 to 28 min. or until center is almost set. Cool 5 min.; spread with preserves. Melt remaining chocolate; drizzle over cheesecake. Cool cheesecake completely. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Little sous chef enjoyed using our meat mallet to crush the Oreos for the crust

Cheesecake-y goodness

Adding the best part – the topping!

The finished product

Enjoying cheesecake with the birthday boy and little sous chef

These turned out so good – even I liked it a lot – and I really am not a fan of cheesecake, OR raspberry (luckily I was able to grab some seedless Raspberry jam – so that helped me enjoy it more as it’s really the seeds I hate). It was the perfect amount for us – and I think my dad really enjoyed it (he had 2 pieces, so I am thinking that means he liked it, ha!)

So if you’re looking for an alternative to regular cheesecake because you don’t need that much (or just because you don’t have a springform pan handy!) then try these – you won’t be disappointed!

4th Of July Sweets (Because It’s Not A Holiday Without Desserts!)

5 Jul

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Hope everyone had a great time celebrating our Nation and all that makes it great yesterday! 4th of July is the perfect holiday for grilling, hanging with friends, and having fun – which is exactly what we did! We went over to a friends house have a little cookout – and I brought the desserts. Yes – desserts plural. I made 3 desserts and I am not ashamed of it – I just couldn’t narrow it down to one, and besides, doesn’t everyone like to have choices? I know I do!

I made Red White and Blue Cheesecake bars, red white and blue strawberries, and cannoli dip

Read On For The Details:

Red White And Blue Cheesecake Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Inside Bru Crew Life)

Ingredients
For the Crust
30 Oreo cookies
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
For the Cheesecake
3 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
red & blue gel food colors

Instructions
-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil.
-Place the cookies (cream included) in a food processor. Pulse until the cookies become crumbs.
-Stir in the butter until mixed in. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
-Place a large baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Fill it halfway with water. Let the oven preheat again.
-Beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and flour and beat again.
-Add the eggs and beat until they are mixed in. Divide the batter evenly into 3 bowls. Use the food coloring to tint two of the bowls red and blue.
-Spoon the mixture evenly over the crust, alternating the colors. Drag a butter knife through the batter going up and down and back and forth until you get a good swirl pattern. Do not over mix.
-Place the pan on the oven rack above the pan of water. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven immediately and place on a wire rack. Let the cheesecake cool on the counter for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Cut into squares and serve with Cool Whip and sprinkles, if desired.

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Crust? Check!

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Colored fillings swirled prettily? Check!

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Patriotic and delicious cheesecake bars? CHECK!

I am normally not a huge cheesecake fan – but when i came across these I knew I wanted to try them – for two reasons. The first being that it had an OREO crust (yum), and the second being the fact that it was red white and blue had me sucked in upon viewing the very first picture! They were easy to make, and turned out really nicely – creamy and delicious – and since its a 9 by 13 pan, it can easily be cut into smaller piece to bring along to a big family picnic or potluck

Ok – so – one down, two to go. On to the “healthy” dessert (stated as such since it’s base is fruit…kinda healthy, right?

Red White And Blue Strawberries
(Recipe courtesy of The Spruce)

Ingredients
-White Chocolate Candy Melts
-Strawberries
-Blue Sprinkles

Instructions
-Melt White Chocolate in microwave until smooth
-Dip Strawberries 2/3 of the way into the white chocolate
-Roll bottom 1/3 of strawberries into blue sprinkles
-Lay on wax paper covered sheet tray to dry, chill until ready to serve

TIPS:
*Do NOT use white chocolate chips – they tend to melt weirdly and clumpily, and I personally have always had better luck with melting chocolate or candy melts
*Make sure your strawberries are clean and DRY when you start this – and when I say dry I don’t mean just air dried – I mean like patted down each individually with a paper towel kind of dry

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Taking the time to dip each individual berry is kind of a pain – but they are so pretty that it makes it worth it!

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And on to the final dessert in the trifecta – Cannoli Dip!

Cannoli Dip
(Recipe Courtesy of Homemade Hooplah)

Ingredients
1 cup ricotta
8 oz cream cheese room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
waffle cones broken

Instructions
-Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer + large bowl), whisk together ricotta, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and whip for another 30 seconds
-Taste test the dip – if you’d like it sweeter, add more powdered sugar 2 tablespoons at a time. You can safely add another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar (8 tablespoons) without negatively impacting consistency
-Fold in mini chocolate chips, reserving some to sprinkle on top for decoration if desired
-Serve dip immediately with broken waffle cones for dipping

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Easy, tasty, no baking required!

One of the best parts about summer holidays like the 4th of July is the chance to get to try out some new recipes at BBQ’s, picnics, and family reunions – and when you’re indecisive like me, you end up trying multiple things at a time, and this time I have to say I am glad I did – as they are truly all winners!

Beer In Pie = Every Man’s Dream Come True

22 Jun

Smore boys

Yesterday was Father’s Day – so Happy (slightly belated!) Father’s Day to all the dads out there – and a very special Happy FIRST Father’s Day to my husband – he’s an amazing guy and it’s been so great to watch him be a dad to our little guy. I knew I wanted to do something special for him to show him how much I love him and appreciate all that he does, and when I came across this recipe for Chocolate stout s’mores icebox pie – I knew it would be perfect. After all, what man wouldn’t love for someone to make them a pie – and not just ANY pie, but one with chocolate and BEER in it?

Chocolate Stout S’Mores Icebox Pie
(Recipe Courtesy of The Beeroness)

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients
Crust
• 9 graham cracker sheets
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 4 tbs butter, melted

Filling
• 1/3 cup chocolate stout
• 2 tbs unsweetened Cocoa
• 1 1/3 cups (8.5wt oz) bittersweet chocolate chips
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• ¼ cup powdered sugar
• pinch salt

 Topping
• 3 cups mini marshmallows

Instructions
Add the graham crackers and brown sugar to a food processor, process until just fine crumbs remain. While the mixer is running, add the melted butter until well combined.
Press into the bottom of a spring form pan in an even layer until well compacted.

Add the chocolate stout, cocoa, and chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl, microwave on high until melted, stirring frequently, about 90 seconds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer add the vanilla, heavy cream, powdered sugar and salt. Beat on high until medium peaks form. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the chocolate until combined. Stir until well combined.

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Pour over the crust in an even layer.
Top with marshmallows, freeze until set, about 2 hours.

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Before serving toast the marshmallows with a culinary torch until blacked to desired degree.

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One thing I love about this is that it is a no-bake dessert (I REALLY am a fan of no bake pie in the summer!) – so no heating up the house or sweating over the oven!

I followed the recipe exactly – the only thing I didn’t do was blacken the marshmallows – as I do not have a culinary torch, and didn’t want to risk melting the whole thing under the broiler. Therefore, the marshmallows didn’t add much taste at all to the pie, since they weren’t toasted like in a real s’more – but that’s really ok, because the chocolate stout layer is good enough to stand on its own – it was rich and creamy, and didn’t taste too much like beer (which I appreciated!) – but the hint of it was still there

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My dad and husband both loved it – so I think I made a good choice for their Father’s Day dessert!

To all the dads out there who would do anything for their families (like my dad and husband!) – I salute you, and hope you had a great day, and that you’re celebrated not just on this holiday, but all year long. Cheers!

Turning A Cookie Into A Pie? Don’t Mind If I Do…

27 Apr

Ok – truth time. I am basically in love with cookie cake – and we aren’t talking some fancy made from scratch cookie cake – I mean the industrial, grocery store kind – with the super sweet frosting roses and balloons – there is nothing better – and I could eat a whole one on my own, I swear. I just love cookies – what can I say? And when I saw this recipe – a giant cookie in PIE form – I just knew I had to whip one up to try

Loaded Soft and Chewy M&M Cookie Pie (Recipe courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
about 1/2 cup M&Ms, divided
about 6 mini peanut butter cups
about 6 Rolo (or other mini/bite-size candy bar)

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie dish very well with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, sugars, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
4. Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Add about 1/4 cup M&Ms and stir to combine; reserve remainder.
7. Turn batter out into prepared pie dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
8. Evenly add the remaining M&Ms to the top of the batter, pushing them down slightly to anchor.
9. Evenly insert the peanut butter cups and Rolos into the batter, pushing them down so the top is almost flush with the surface of the dough.

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Ok, so only 6 rolos? But I bought a whole bag! Better add a few more…

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Caption: Cookie Pie – all ready to get baked!

10. Bake for about 24 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. If your pie has risen in the center, it will deflate as it cools. Allow pie to cool in dish for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Pie is meant to be on the soft and underbaked side in the center while edges are crisper, which is how I prefer my cookies. In general, if you prefer more well-done cookies, bake a few minutes longer. Pie will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months (color may leech from the M&Ms if you freeze it).

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This tasted great – had the basic sugar cookie type base, and all those yummy candies were just the perfect addition! It had that slightly underbaked quality which I LOVE – and while it’s no grocery store cookie cake, I must say it is awesome!

Is it a cookie? Is it a pie? I don’t really care honestly – all I care about is that it’s delicious and a winner all around!

The Best Valentine’s Gift – Delicious Dessert Made Just For Me By My Love

15 Feb

I am a sucker for Valentine’s Day – the hearts, flowers, declarations of love – it’s sappy and silly and I don’t care, I love it all. And I especially love when my man gets in the kitchen and whips me up something delicious and sweet for Valentine’s Day! When he found this recipe for Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Brownie Pie he was sold – the combo of chocolate, brownies, peanut butter, cheesecake, and pie – I mean, who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Brownie Pie (Recipe courtesy of Inside BruCrew Life

Ingredients
For the Brownie Layer
1 sheet refrigerated pie crust (I used Pillsbury)
1 brownie mix for 9×13 pan (I used a Pillsbury mix)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg
For the Cheesecake Layer
1 package cream cheese, softened (8 oz.)
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 bag Peanut Butter Snickers Minis, chopped into quarters (11.5 oz.)
Topping
1 container Cool Whip (8 oz.)
2 Tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

Instructions

photo 1  

Prepping the base – pie crust and brownie mix

1. Let the pie crust sheet sit out on the counter for about 15 minutes. Remove wrapping and unroll gently. Press into a 10 inch pie plate and crimp edges. Set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the brownie mix, oil, water, and egg. Mix just until combined. It will be very thick. Spoon into pie plate and spread out. Bake at 350* for 35 minutes.

photo 2
Cheesecake gets ready to be spread on top of the brownie

3. While the brownie pie is cooking, place the cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter and beat again until creamy. Stir in the Snickers candies by hand. When the brownie pie is finished baking, remove from the oven and gently spoon the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie. Spread out very gently. Cover the edges of your crust with foil to keep them from burning. Return to the oven and bake another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Refrigerate until completely cooled. Top with the Cool Whip and sprinkles. Cut into 12 slices. Keep covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

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The Brownie layer gets a delicious peanut-buttery Snickers topping

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The delicious finished product (cooled and topped with whipped topping)

We ended up cutting this into 8 pieces – but that is actually a decision I regret – we definitely should have paid attention to the recipe and cut it into 12 – as it is REALLY INTENSE. It’s rich, and delicious – but you don’t need much of it, that’s for sure. The brownie layer is thick and fudgy, and the peanut butter cheesecake layer is nice and creamy, and the snickers add a great textural aspect to it. The whipped topping is a nice fluffy end to the pie, and overall – it’s a perfect pie for peanut butter and cheesecake lovers. Personally? I am NOT much of a cheesecake fan, but I did enjoy this – probably because I am a HUGE brownie fan and I loved that these brownies were nice and dense. Also, I LOVE LOVE the Peanut Butter Snickers that are used in the pie, so this was definitely a win win overall – paired with a nice tall glass of milk to wash it down, it was the perfect sweet to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my sweetie!

Products I love – the Apple Corer/Peeler/Slicer

6 Nov

Ok, seriously – how did I live my life without this? The apple corer/peeler/slicer is amazing – easy to setup (with its suction cup base that firmly attaches to almost any countertop), and easy to use (with options to just peel the apple, or to core/peel/slice all at once!) – it has made my life SO much easier! For only $15, it has saved us literally hours of peeling time – and it’s definitely a Product I LOVE and cannot live without – especially during my favorite season of all – APPLE SEASON!

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 My husband takes care of operating the corer/peeler/slicer, as Walter keeps an eye on the peels (making sure none touch the ground, of course!)

It’s certainly no secret that I LOVE FALL – and one of the best things about living in Upstate New York during fall (aside from the gorgeous foliage!) is the apple picking – there are tons of farms near us, and we take FULL advantage of the chance to snag super fresh apples all season long

Picking APplesWe picked 52 pounds of apples last weekend – our 9th apple picking excursion this fall, and I can’t wait to make tons of apple goodies with them!

Since this past weekend was probably our last outing of the season (sad but true), I want to make sure I am making the most of it. So – I will be making more applesauce to give as gifts this Christmas, and I will also probably whip up a few apple pies, as well as apple crisps to share with friends and family. Oh, and another thing I will be making is Apple Butter – a new recipe for me, and one that I will be canning to share with loved ones as well!

Crock Pot Apple Butter (Recipe Courtesy of The Neaves Nest)

Ingredients
16 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons or more of honey to taste

Directions
Pour water in the bottom of your crock pot. Dump in peeled, cored and sliced apples. Top with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Cook on low for 4 hours. Blend with hand blender or a regular blender. Stir in honey. Taste to see if you prefer a sweeter butter and add more honey if you wish. I found that letting a little cool off in a spoon before trying it allowed more of the flavors and sweetness to come out.

The best part about this recipe is that it’s seriously easy – just set it and leave it – and let it fill your house with it’s amazing apple smell! Like I said, I plan on canning this, so I make a big batch, but you can always cut it in half if you just want to make enough for you to spread on toast (or eat with a spoon, no judgment…)

So I recommend you head over to amazon and grab yourself an apple corer/peeler/slicer, and then use it to whip up some delicious apple recipes – which will you make – the apple butter? Pie, crisp, applesauce? Or do you have another apple recipe you love to make?

Bake With These Easy (And Healthy!) Substitutions

9 Oct

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At the start of the year I did a post about Healthier Chocolate Chip cookies, and I was reading it over last night and it got me to thinking about substitutions – ones that are quick and easy and can make a recipe healthy without sacrificing taste.

Check these out:

If It Calls for: white bread, Use: Whole grain bread

If it calls for: Bread Crumbs, Use: Rolled Oats of Crushed Bran Cereal

If It calls for: Butter/Margarine/Shortening/Oil, Use: Applesauce or prune puree to replace half the called for fat

If it calls for: Butter/Oil, use: Mashed Avocado or mashed banana

If It calls for: Cream, Use: fat free half and half or evaporated skim milk

If it calls for: Cream Cheese, Use: Fat free or reduced fat cream cheese varieties, or low fat cottage cheese (pureed until smooth)

If It calls for: Eggs, Use: Egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute (egg beaters!)

If It calls for: Flour, Use: Whole wheat flour (for half of the called for flour)

If It Calls for: Frosting, Use: Marshmallow Fluff, or meringue  (they are a lot lighter and fluffier, without all the fat of frosting)

 

Most of these substitutions work really well because they use things you likely already have in your pantry at home – what a great way to cut out calories and fats from the things you love to bake (and your family probably won’t even notice the difference in taste, so it can be your little secret!) Easy, right?

What about you – what baking substitutions do you swear by?