Christmas in July

Anyone who knows me know I am a Christmas junkie–I’ll listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies any month in of the year.  Since we moved recently, resulting in a brand-new DVR, I recorded every Hallmark Channel Christmas movie they played last week (literally–every one. Hubby was thrilled.) 😂

So, I was super-excited to be invited to a Christmas in July party over the weekend. My aunt and her husband decorated the yard with blow-up decorations, they had Christmas treats, and Santa even stopped by for a visit–in his shorts and t-shirt, of course.

It was a fun party, and a great excuse to enjoy some Christmas music in the middle of summer. (It was even better to know I am not the only crazy Christmas fan in my family!) 😉

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My savory treat–meat, cheese, fruit, and olives. Super easy and always popular!

I took the party as an excuse to try out a new Christmas recipe–Peppermint Mocha mini-cupcakes. And, for anyone wondering where I got Candy Canes in July, I stocked up in late December just in case the need arose. 🎄

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_a91cThese were perfect little bites of heaven–rich chocolate, cool peppermint, and just a hint of coffee. I definitely will be making this one again!

Peppermint Mocha Mini-Cupcakes

  • Servings: 6 dozen mini-cupcakes
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Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 Stick of Butter (1/2 Cup), softened
  • 1 1/4 Cups Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Cups Hot Coffee
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened CocoaPowder
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
  • 1/3 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 Cup Mint Chocolate Chips, chopped

For the Icing:

  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 stick Butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • 3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
  • Grated Dark Chocolate and Candy Cane Pieces (for Garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Add liners to mini-cupcakes trays.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar using a mixer until smooth and fluffy (3-5 minutes).
  3. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, and beat another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add the cocoa to the hot coffee, and mix until there are no lumps.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the flour mixture and coffee mixture to the butter mixture, alternating, and starting with the flour. After each addition, mix until just combined.
  7. Fold in the sour cream, vanilla, and mint chips. Stir until fully incorporated.
  8. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of batter (I use a small cookie scoop) to each cupcake liner.
  9. Bake at 330 for 10-15 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched and/or a tester comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.
  11. Once cool, cream the butter and cream cheese in a mixer on high until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until fully incorporated.
  12. Use  piping bag to ice the cupcakes. Garnish with grated chocolate and a candy cane piece. Chill until icing is set.

Enjoy!

Cupcake TrayI find mint to be refreshing in the summer, so this was a perfect fit for a hot, humid, July  afternoon. I look forward to trying them again in December. Yum!

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Are you a Christmas anytime person, or and only-after-December 15 person? Or do you fall somewhere in between? And, what is your favorite holiday treat?


Sweet Treats: Healthy Fruit and Ricotta Dessert

For years, Hubby and I have tried to eat a primarily from-scratch diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Over the last year or so, we have tried to cut back on sugar a bit too.

It’s not that we never have an all out sugary dessert–we do, though we have tried to cut back on portions. But, we have also looked for other, healthier options to satisfy my sweet tooth.img_1668

I have never been a ricotta cheese fan, but a few of my favorite traditional desserts (mmm, cannoli) are ricotta based, so when I heard about this one, I decided to give it a go.

This is super-simple, and can be made with any fresh or frozen fruit. I like to use whole milk ricotta, but part skim works, too. (With the full-fat ricotta and frozen cherries, this is approximately 170 calories, with 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g fat (5 g saturated), and  6 g protein.)

Cinnamon Ricotta Cherries

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Frozen Cherries
  • 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • Dash Cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Slightly defrost the cherries, either by placing in the microwave for 30 seconds or allowing to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cherries with a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Top with Ricotta.
  4. Drizzle with honey. If desired, sprinkle with more cinnamon.
  5. Enjoy!

 

With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)

With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)

I use a 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop to serve the ricotta–2 scoops equal 1/4 cup. This is also great with fresh strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen blueberries, or (hubby’s favorite), fresh pineapple. A little treat without a ton of added sugar. 🙂

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Do you have a favorite quick sweet treat that is a little on the healthier side? A go-to shortcut dessert? Let us know in the comments.

 

 


Fall Apple Desserts

I am a magazine junkie–Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Food Network… You get the idea. In the last week or two, all the September magazines are rolling in, and I am drooling over a lot of the fall recipes–but none more than the desserts.

Apples and pumpkin galore! Yum!

I will never make it through them all, but I thought I would share a few of the most tempting apple deserts, in case anyone wants to give them a try.


Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake (From Southern Living)

Southern Living says: This delicious apple bundt cake features a sweet cream cheese filling and homemade praline frosting.  Garnish the frosting with extra toasted pecans.

Seriously, doesn’t that look amazing? I actually liked that half of the cover better than the other side–and the other side was Brad Paisley!


Love this coffee cake! <3

Love this coffee cake! ❤

One of my go-to apple deserts is this Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze recipe from Food Network. It comes from Emeril Live!–goodness I miss that show! Hubby asks for this cake all year round!

(Just a note, I usually leave off the glaze–while it is good, I don’t think it is necessary.)

Cooking Light says: Sweet, crunchy apples make for a delicious plate of party “nachos.” Just slice some apples, arrange on a plate, and get creative. While I chose to make a slightly sweet peanut butter glaze, you could easily drizzle with honey or melted chocolate, or sprinkle cinnamon, nuts of your choice, or anything—the options really are endless. Slice some apples and have fun!

Source: Forget Keeping the Doctor Away: Slice Up the Ultimate Apple Nachos


Need more? Country Living has 40 apple deserts in this article!


Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Or, you could go the easy route and try one of my favorites –a chopped apple, a drizzle of caramel sundae sauce, and maybe some chopped walnuts or pecans. Healthy and easy! 😉


Whatever your choice, enjoy!   ❤

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What’s your favorite apple recipe? Favorite fall fruit? Anything I missed? Feel free to share!   🙂 


Coffee Break – Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

I found myself with a touch of a sweet tooth after work last week, and editing my culinary cozy mystery was not helping the issue. When my main character whipped up a batch of biscotti,  it seemed like the perfect time to try a new recipe.

IMG_8910I love the cinnamon and almond extract with the rich chocolate in these cookies. I think that the higher-quality chocolate makes a big impact as well.

I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!

I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!

This makes a lot of biscotti, but they freeze up very nicely. Just take them out for a half hour or so before you want to eat them. Home-baked treat whenever you want them. 🙂

Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

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Ingredients

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
4 Tbsp. Cold Butter, cut in chunks
3 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Good-quality Dark Chocolate Chips or Coarsely Chopped Dark Chocolate
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Course Sugar (Optional)

 

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl,  mix the Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, and Salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or 2 butter knives until incorporated and crumbly.
  1. Add eggs, and stir until incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients, then knead in bowl until fully combined.
  2. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead a few more times, then divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.
  3. Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice each log into 1/2 inch slices, cut on a diagonal. Lay each slice on its side on the baking sheet. They can be close, but not touching the other cookies. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm.
  5. Cool completely on cooling racks. The biscotti will continue to harden as they cool.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_8917There is nothing like a crispy cookie to dip in a mug of piping-hot coffee!

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Off to work–with a tasty treat in my lunch bag. Hope you have a wonderful day! ❤️

Blog Signature Do you have a favorite little treat to go with your coffee or tea? Do you prefer cookies, cakes, or pies?  Or are you more of a salty-snack fan? Please share in the comments! 🙂


A Summer Treat: Lemon Blueberry Scones

I have worked hard to be a little healthier lately–more workouts, more veggies, more fruit, less junk food. I started this little experiment because I was told it could help me out with the pain I have dealt with from arthritis–and it worked! As an added bonus, I have dropped 20 pounds in the last three months–not a bad side effect! 😉

IMG_8641One of the things I love about the way Hubby and I are approaching this is that we didn’t cut any food out completely; we are simply more cognizant about how we make them. Nothing processed–we make it from scratch (though we did that most of the time before). If we want a sweet treat, we have it–but we have 2 small cookies, not 6. 😉

That being said, I have a bag of whole-wheat flour here, and I was determined to make something fun with it. I researched a bunch of scone recipes, made a couple attempts at my own, and this is what I came up with.IMG_8608

These Blueberry Lemon Scones are super-tasty, with a crumbly crust on the outside and a soft, moist center. Perfect for a midmorning snack with a piping-hot cup of coffee or tea!

Lemon Blueberry Scones

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

2 Cups Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour*
 2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
 1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Stick Butter (8 Tablespoons)
2 Eggs (Fork Beaten)
1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1-2 tsp. Cane Sugar (optional)

*Please Note: Using Whole Wheat Flour will change the texture of the final product.

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with Parchment Paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Salt.
  3. Cut the stick of Butter into 8-10 pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to mix the butter into the flour, mixing only until the butter is slightly smaller than pea-sized.
  4. Add the Eggs, Cream, Lemon Juice and Zest. Stir until it just comes together.
  5. Add the Blueberries and gently combine by hand, trying to keep as many blueberries whole as possible.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into a large circle, about 3/4 – 1  inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges. (Alternatively, break into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a triangle shape. This will prevent blueberries from being cut in half).
  7. Put 12 triangle pieces on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Cane Sugar (I used 1 pack of Sugar in the Raw for the entire batch).
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.
  9. Serve with a little butter and your favorite beverage. Enjoy!

IMG_8646This is a really easy recipe, and the end product is great. Buttery dough with juicy berries and just a hint of lemon.

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Do you have any favorite treats that are healthier than they taste? Favorite fruit or veggie recipes? Feel free to share! 🙂 


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Most people who love to bake had one recipe that made them fall in love with baking, something that made them want to try new and exciting things. For me (and many others, I suspect), that one recipe was Chocolate Chip Cookies.IMG_0525 (2)

Like most people, I started with the recipe on the bag of Chocolate Chips. In my late teens, I found the recipe was fun and easy. It quickly became my go-to recipe if I needed to take something to a party.

Back then, the only thing I did to change the recipe was to add M&M’S to add a bit of color. 😉 (This is still a fun idea, just don’t leave out the chips completely.) Read More


Lemon Drop Cupcakes

IMG_2268I love to cook with lemon in the summertime. It is such a versatile ingredient–it works great in both sweet and savory dishes.  Plus it is one of both my mom and my husband’s favorite flavors. 😉

I made these cupcakes the first time about a year ago.  I came across this three-layer cake recipe on Pinterest and really wanted to try it, but I needed cupcakes for a picnic.  Since I love filled cupcakes, the recipe for the cake and the filling worked well with some minor tweaks, although I did use a different icing. Read More


It’s Pumpkin Season: Paradise Pumpkin Pie

My mom didn’t cook very often when I was a kid, and she almost never baked.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t able–she is actually a very good cook.  But, she doesn’t really enjoy cooking, where my dad does, so he took the cooking duties.

The holiday meals were the one thing she did enjoy cooking, and this pie always topped off our Thanksgiving dinners.  This is one of my absolute favorites, although I have taking over the tradition of making it.

I have actually made it twice already this year, although Thanksgiving is still over a month away, and i am sure I will make it a few more before the holidays are done.  I get a lot of requests for the recipe, so I decided it is time to share.  🙂 Read More


Chocolaty Goodness

I had a different planned for today, but I just had to share this recipe I tried yesterday! 🙂 It was my grandmother’s 81st birthday (Happy Birthday Grandma!), and I was on dessert duty.

I am not a chocolate cake person–I much prefer a yellow or white cake.  But, it wasn’t my birthday, and chocolate cake is my grandmother’s favorite. Read More


Pure Pecan Heaven

Over the past few months, I have become quite the Pinterest addict.  I have found recipes galore, fun household tips, clothing ideas, inspirational quotes, and the list goes on and on!

I wrote a post a few months ago about some of the pins I had tried at home. Today, I want to share a recipe that I tried a few weeks ago for a large group that everyone loved. (I have been baking since I was a teenager, and my mom said it was the best thing I have ever made.  And she is a big fan of my baking.)  😉 Read More