Tag Archives: sweet

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin Parfait text

Aside from shopping for gifts, food — both making and consuming — seems to be most folks’ main concern when planning for said holidays.

The thought of preparing a large feast or nibbles for a large fête can be quite daunting, and for most people, the dessert course often seems to be where home cooks are either spending hours preparing or they’re skipping the hassle by just purchasing something from the grocery store. Not to sound like Rachael Ray or Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) from The Matrix, but what if I told you that you could whip up a mouthwatering dessert in thirty minutes or less and be able to brag that you made it all from scratch?

My inspiration for the following recipe came when I needed to whip up a quick dessert, but didn’t have enough time (or motivation) to bake a whole pumpkin pie. These Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles incorporate the flavors of classic pumpkin pie — spiced pumpkin filling, whipped cream, gingersnap cookie “crust” — but take only about a third of the time to make from start to finish. The best part about the dish is that you can make them as individual servings or in one big dish to share.

So if you’re strapped for time this holiday season and/or baking challenged, try out this quick and easy pumpkin treat which is sure to impress all of your guests.
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Très délicieux: Strawberry Napoleons with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam

Très délicieux: Strawberry Napoleons with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam

As General Napoleon Bonaparte once stated, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself,” so the next time you’re entertaining and have to make dessert, in the don’t half-ass it by buying a cake at the supermarket. Get in the kitchen and express your culinary flair with a homemade treat like these strawberry Napoleons (no short Frenchmen needed). This take on the traditional French dessert (a.k.a.: mille-feuille) is made up of layers of flaky puff pastry smothered with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam, topped with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. I promise you don’t need to be a trained pastry chef to pull this off.

The homemade jam I used was infused with fresh thyme — a lovely sweet-savory combination — but feel free to use store bought instead. (Tip: Infuse store bought jam with thyme by heating both together with a little water in a pot over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, then let cool to room temperature.) As for the vanilla pastry cream (a cooked custard), you can have the bragging rights by making it yourself, but if you’re in a pinch, simply use vanilla pudding in its place.

I urge you to go forth and conquer this dish for a special occasion (or any dol’ ay), and remember: it won’t be as difficult as the Battle of Waterloo — it’s just dessert.
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Raw Ambition: Fudgy Raw Brownie Bites

Raw Ambition: Fudgy Raw Brownie Bites

What would you say if I told you that these fudgy gems (see photo) were not only utterly delicious but also incredibly good for you? They’re also quick and easy to prepare, plus there’s no heat involved in their creation — they’re raw!

These brownie bites are chock-full of chocolatey goodness, and bonus: they’re gluten-free, vegan and filled with beneficial vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein — thanks to superfoods like nuts, dates, raw cacao and coconut.

I know some of you might be wondering how can I give you a dish swimming in cream and cheese one week and then turn around and offer a recipe for what some would consider “earthy, crunchy hippie food” the next. It’s because life is about balance. And just because you have to get healthy foods into your diet doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor.

To further sell you on these, let’s break down the health benefits in the ingredients: Medjool dates have a rich flavor and act as both a natural sweetener and a binder for these brownies. They’re used in many raw desserts and are a great replacement for sugar or honey, plus they have high levels of potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese, and are a great source of fiber. Nuts — in this case pecans — are ground up and serve as the “flour” for the brownies. Nuts contain both protein and contain healthy unsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids (particularly pecans and walnuts), which aid in the prevention of vascular diseases.

Powdered raw cacao is the pure, ground form of the “meat” of the cacao bean, also known as the “nib.” This is the raw form of chocolate before it has been mashed into a paste and melted down. Not only does cacao contain a natural chemical which acts as an aphrodisiac (aka: theobromine), it also has more antioxidant flavonoids (cancer and cardiovascular disease fighters) than any other food, and has up to four times more antioxidants than green tea. As for the coconut, it is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

If I’ve sold you on these brownies’ salubrious benefits (or haven’t scared you off with all this healthy talk), be sure to give them a try. You’ll wonder why you ever wasted the empty calories on those standard baked ones.
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French breakfast muffins that are c’est magnifique!

French breakfast muffins that are c’est magnifique!

As I’ve confessed before, I’m no pastry chef. I have little patience for exactly measuring and weighing flours, leaveners and extracts, then precisely mixing and baking until a dish is just perfect — but looks too good to even touch. But once in a great while, I get the baking bug and can’t wait to nosh on some carb-laden goodies warm from the oven.

And then I saw them.

While perusing through one of my favorite new cookbooks, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by food blogger and now Food Network personality, Ree Drummond, I came upon the recipe for her French Breakfast Puffs. These fluffy, cinnamon- and sugar-topped beauties jumped off the page and called to me, “Bake me … bake me …” It was settled. I had to find an excuse to make them.

And ohh … they were so worth it. Tender, fluffiness on the inside with sweet and spiced, slightly crunchy tops — they were pure heaven. Their flavor reminds me of a cinnamon-sugar doughnut. I also like that the actual muffin batter isn’t overly sweet — notice there’s no vanilla extract used — which lets the sugary topping take credit for the sweetness. And talk about easy to make! One large bowl and a handheld mixer were the only items dirtied in the making of these muffins, and they took only five minutes to whip up. I will admit that the hardest part in the process was waiting the 25 minutes for them to bake, then letting them cool enough so I could handle them to apply the topping.

I made a few small changes from the original recipe, like swapping butter for shortening. Using real, quality butter gives these muffins a more, well, buttery flavor. My recommendation, butter-wise, is to use one with a high butterfat content, like the Irish Kerrygold or Plugrá. They’re pricier than store brand butter but have incredibly rich flavor and take baked goods to the next level. If I’m going to be consuming some empty calories, I’m going to make them worth it.

Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s anything particularly French about these muffins, but it doesn’t matter because they’re damn good. Great for breakfast, brunch or even a late-night snack, these French Breakfast Muffins are now going to be a staple of my baking repertoire and I highly encourage you to try them out as well.


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Opposites attract in sweet and salty Maple-Bacon Kettle Corn

Opposites attract in sweet and salty Maple-Bacon Kettle Corn

Chocolate is très cliché and cupcakes are so passé. With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, many of you might be racking your brain with ideas for treats to give to your sweetie, but think twice before choosing one of the aforementioned sweets. Think outside the box a little and go for something a little less traditional this year: Maple-bacon kettle corn.

As the old adage “opposites attract” holds true in many relationships, the saying also proves accurate when combining the basic tastes of sweet and salty. Plus, not everyone is a fan of the typical Valentines fare of chocolates and super sugary candy. The slightly sweet, caramelized sugar covered popcorn studded with bits of crispy bacon is sure to satisfy both your sweet tooth and your sweetheart’s salty palate.

And, believe it or not, you can make popcorn without using a microwave. As I’ve come to find, popcorn made on the stove top (as this recipe is) is a thousand times better than the bagged stuff with powdered butter that you nuke the heck out of and it’s incredibly simple to prepare. All you need is a large pot with a lid, popcorn kernels, oil and a few minutes of your time. It’ll be another milestone you can check off your bucket list.

I recommend using a cast iron dutch oven if you have one — either enameled or not — because cast iron evenly transfers heat around whatever you’re cooking. Thus, it will cook faster and more evenly and you’re less likely to have a mess of scorched sugar on the bottom of your pot when making plain popcorn or kettle corn.

Now if you’re not a fan of bacon or don’t eat it because of dietary or religious reasons, simply omit it and use all canola or vegetable oil for this recipe and add a little more salt to the pot. You could also score a bottle of Bacon Salt seasoning to still get the flavor of the original, pork-laden recipe (and, believe it or not, Bacon Salt is vegan). And for a more caramel-flavored kettle corn, use brown sugar in place of white.

Use this popcorn recipe as a base (with or without the sugar) and experiment with different flavors and seasonings: Parmesan and truffle oil, cocoa powder and cinnamon, chipotle powder and cumin, vanilla sugar and rosemary — the list goes on. Just keep the popcorn to oil ratio the same and you can’t go wrong.

Now get popping! (Warning: this recipe is highly addictive.)
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Fake it real good: Make quick and easy frozen yogurt (no ice cream maker needed)

Fake it real good: Make quick and easy frozen yogurt (no ice cream maker needed)

BlackberryFroYo1

If you’re one of those people who have, thus far, stuck to your New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating (or are trying to get back on the bandwagon), here’s a quick, easy and scrumptious dessert recipe that won’t leave you with extra calories to burn off or the guilt of cheating on your diet. It’s also a good way to get a serving or two of fruit into your daily diet.

What’s great about this recipe for frozen yogurt is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to put it together. The only equipment you’ll need is something many people already have stowed away in their kitchen cupboards — a blender or food processor. If you don’t have either, I’d highly suggest investing in one, as their blending and chopping possibilities are practically endless. Purchase an inexpensive one at Target, Wal-Mart or online (and you don’t need anything fancy, just one that performs the basic functions).

The original recipe I adapted this from uses a half cup of sugar which I’ve replaced with a quarter cup of light agave nectar. Agave nectar (or agave syrup) comes from the sap of the agave plant. Yep, the same plant that tequila is made from. But don’t worry, you’re not going to get buzzed from this sweet nectar, it’s just a healthier substitute for refined sugar. It’s lower in calories than sugar and also has a much lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t give you a spike in your blood sugar and can be used by those on low-carb diets and those with blood sugar issues.

As for the base, I like to use natural, low-fat Greek-style yogurt that’s free of preservatives, as it has more protein and is bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt. It’s thick texture also makes for a creamier frozen yogurt. If you’re going the vegan route, then use a soy-based yogurt instead.
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