Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Hat Brownies

This is going to be a super short post but I wanted to share these Santa hat brownies in case you are looking for a last minute cute idea for a Christmas dessert.  I actually made these brownies last Christmas and it was too late to blog them and then I totally forgot about them until I was browsing Pinterest for holiday themed food ideas a few days ago.

These brownie bites are incredibly easy and they will be a huge hit with the kids, and adults too, if they can manage to sneak any before the kids eat them all!  I am pretty sure these lasted about 3 minutes before they were completely devoured and technically they weren't even suppose to be eating them yet.  !!Kids!! I am positive that your kids will love these just as much as all of the ones in my family did.

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season and that your days are filled with family, friends, good food, holiday cheer, and lots of love <3

Santa Hat Brownies

1 box brownie mix, prepared as directed on the box (or homemade)

Strawberries, washed and hulled

4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp milk, if needed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the brownie mix as directed on the box and bake in a greased mini muffin tin for 15-18 minutes.  Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Prepare the cream cheese frosting while the brownies are cooling.  Combine the softened cream cheese and softened butter in a medium bowl.  Use an electric mixer or a whisk to combine well.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat for 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and the milk until you have a nice smooth consistency.  You don't want to the frosting to be too loose or too stiff.  Place the frosting into a zipper topped baggie and cut off a small corner. Transfer the brownies to a serving platter and pipe a small amount of frosting onto the top of each brownie.  Place a strawberry on top of the frosting and press slightly so a ring of frosting forms the base of each hat.  Pipe a little blop of frosting on the top of each strawberry to make the pom on the top of Santa's hat.  Chill the brownie bites until ready to serve.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

How do other food bloggers find the time to take such beautiful, properly lit, tastefully staged pictures?  Is this something that just comes naturally to some people or do I really just need to set the time aside to layout my pictures better?  I have such food blog photo envy!!! I mean, just look at this picture - pie set on top of a non-fancy place setting on my non-ironed table cloth and only about 20 seconds to snap 10 photos while I have 15 guests waiting for Thanksgiving dinner.  It is a miracle that I remembered to make time to photograph this dessert at all.  I even made sure to take a photo of the cut pie.  We just won't talk about how there is clearly camera shake due to the low lighting and half a sippy cup in the top corner of the picture......

Oh well, I suppose this is just real (and busy!) life.  At least you get a glimpse of how cool this cheesecake pie comes out.  It's not a pumpkin cheesecake and its not just a pumpkin pie or just a cheesecake.  This dessert is a neat combo of pumpkin pie and cheesecake baked on top of each other.  I am not a pumpkin pie fan, and I can honestly say I don't think I have ever had more than a bite of plain old pumpkin pie but this pie combined with the smooth, creamy texture of the sweet cheesecake takes this pumpkin pie to a really delicious place.

The graham cracker crust and candied pecans add all of this lovely contrasting crunch texture to the velvety, smooth fillings.  The pie itself isn't overly sweet and it has a lovely blend of the beloved pumpkin pie style spices that are always popular this time of year.  You definitely will want to top this pie off with a little giant spoonful of freshly whipped cream, just to help tie everything together and add an extra layer of creaminess.  This pie would make a really lovely addition to your holiday table this year; I hope you give it a try!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

Graham Cracker Crust

1 sleeve cinnamon graham crackers (about 8 cracker sheets)
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar

Place the graham crackers in a large zipper bag and crush with a mallet or rolling pin until the crackers become fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and sugar to the bag, seal the bag again, and smoosh around with your hands until the mixture seems well combined.  Pour the crumbs into a springform pan (recommended) or pie plate and press slightly up the sides and along the bottom with your fingers to spread the crumbs into an even layer.  Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes and then let cool on a wire rack.

Cheesecake Filling

8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk or use an electric mixer to combine together until very smooth.  Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared, cooled graham cracker crust.

Pumpkin Filling

3/4 cup white sugar
15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk or use an electric mixer to combine together until just barely smooth.  Use a spoon to carefully dollop the pumpkin filling on top of the cheesecake filling evenly.  If you use a standard pie plate for your crust, all of the pumpkin filling might not fit, so that is why I recommend the springform pan method.  Place the pie on a baking sheet to prevent an oven mess in case you have any accidental overflow.  Bake the pie for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350°F and continue to bake for about 45 minutes.  The pie is done when the middle looks set but still jiggles slightly when you wiggle the pan.  Cool the pie to room temperature and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.  Garnish with candied pecans (below) and lightly sweetened whipped cream

Inspired by King Arthur Flour

Candied Pecans

16 oz bag pecan halves (unsalted)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp water
1 egg white

Combine the sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In another small bowl whisk the vanilla, water, and egg white until lightly foamy (2-3 minutes).  Add the pecans to the egg white mixture and toss to combine.  Pour the coated nuts into the sugar and mix very well.  Transfer the nuts to a baking sheet and bake at 300°F for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Let the nuts cool completely before using.  Note: I chopped my nuts and only used about 1/4 of this recipe for my pie but it is not very easy to split an egg white into smaller quantities, so I made the full recipe and ate the rest as a snack! They would be great in a salad, on ice cream, or give them away as gifts for the holidays!

Inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rustic Apple Galette

Oh how I wish I had a piece of this apple deliciousness right now.  Most average week nights, after little K is finally asleep, I have a little bowl of ice cream as a treat to myself and a yay that I have a moment to just sit and relax. So of course tonight, I am completely out of ice cream and I am sitting here practically drooling looking at these apple galette pictures. A slice of this would certainly satisfy the massive sweet tooth craving that I have going on right now and would be way more exciting than my usual ice cream!  Hmm maybe a scoop of ice cream on top a slice of this, now we are talking :)  

If you are going to make this dessert or do any type of cooking with apples, I highly recommend getting on of these babies.  These peeler, corer, slicer thingies are an amazing time saver and definitely worth the approximate $20.  I'm not usually a big fan of single purpose kitchen tools but this one is well worth it.  It only took about 5 minutes to prep all six cups of apples for this recipe and I didn't even use the slicing option because I was in the mood for a diced apple this particular day.  Whether you decide to slice or dice is completely up to you and it only creates a slightly different texture when the apples get baked.    

 I was really hoping to slice this dessert for you but this is what kept happening while I was trying to take pictures and by the fifth time of moving little K back from the dessert, I decided the few shots I had of the galette as a whole would do.  Plus I took this over to my mom's and its not so easy to transport pre-sliced pie.  A galette is basically a free form pie; it has all the same elements, just no pie plate.  You could also probably call this a tart, but I'm not really sure if there is a technical difference between these terms.  Whatever you call it, you absolutely have to try it.  All of the steps are easy and it came together really fast too because I didn't even have to wait for the dough to chill, like most pie crust recipes call for.  Try using a variety of apples for a nice mix of sweet and tart.  Some apples, like Granny Smiths, hold their shape and texture more as they bake so try mixing a few of those with something sweeter and softer such as Macintoshs. The crumble topping is crunchy, buttery, sugary; the perfect compliment to the flaky dough and tender apple filling.  

I also wanted to share a few updated pictures of little K, since it has been a few months.  Here we are enjoying the afternoon sun on a lovely and warm autumn day.

 This is his first Halloween picture.  He has a bit of a turtle theme going on in his life, so his Auntie B found him this cute Squirt costume, from Finding Nemo.

He just turned 8 months old last Friday and I attempted his 8 month pictures but he really wanted to just climb right out of the gilder and do a face plant into the floor, so we are going to have to figure something else out.  In the meantime, here was his 7 month shot.

And here he is enjoying his first snow fall.  Well actually I'm not sure if he enjoyed it or not, he seemed fairly miffed about this whole snow thing, especially trying to crawl around in his fluffy snowsuit.  His first snow storm was a doozey.  We got over 12 inches of mostly heavy, wet white stuff.  That sure was fun to clean off the cars with this little man strapped to my back!  At least he was entertained :)

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  It would definitely be a wonderful addition to your holiday table this year!

Rustic Apple Galette

Galette Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp cold butter, diced
4-8 tbsp ice water

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and then cut the butter into the dry ingredients, using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the mixture looks crumbly and the butter pieces are the size of small peas.  Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough just barely comes together.  It will actually look more like wet sand and when you pinch a piece in your hand, it will hold together.  Set the dough aside while you make the apple filling and crumble topping.

Apple Filling
6 cups apples, peeled and sliced or diced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Make sure the cornstarch is well distributed into the apples.  Whether you slice or dice the apples is your preference. The galette will have a slightly different texture depending on which you choose.  Set the apples aside while you mix the crumble.

Crumble Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup pecan or walnuts, chopped
3 tbsp melted butter

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.  Set aside for assembly

Egg wash
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water

To assemble the galette, roll the dough out on a piece of parchment or silicone mat into about a 14" circle.  Pile the apples onto the middle of the dough and arrange in a flat layer.  Leave about 2" of dough around all sides of the apples.  Carefully fold the dough edge up over the edge of the apples.  Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle the entire galette with the crumble topping.  Make sure to cover both the apples and part of the galette dough.  Slide a baking sheet under the parchment paper or silicone mat and bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes.  Let the galette cool for at least 30 minutes before serving, but best if served at room temperature.  I would recommend using the parchment paper if you want to transfer this dessert to a plate for serving.  I couldn't transfer my galette off of the silicone mat in one easy movement, so I served it from there.


Inspired by Kitchen Simplicity