Chocolate Heart Cake with Ganache

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Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! It sure is a cold one here in the Northeast! All the better for snuggling, I suppose.ūüôā

Today I bring you a heart-shaped chocolate cake topped with thick fudgy ganache and raspberries. Pinterest takes all the credit here. This cake is created by pouring batter into one 8 inch square pan  and one 8 inch round pan then baking and slicing the round cake in half. See below.

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I used this oldie but goodie chocolate cake recipe which originates from Annie’s Eats. I then slathered on thick fudgy ganache (made using this recipe). Top with raspberries (little kid fingers are especially helpful here) and enjoy!

Wishing you lots of love and chocolate on this cold Valentine’s Day!

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Gingerbread Cupcakes

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Happy New Year! Hard to believe we are already THREE weeks in to 2016. I have no idea how that happened. It’s almost every day that I think, “Man, I wish I had a pause button.” The time seems¬†to¬†FLY¬†by these days. Anyone else feel that way?

So rewinding…. I was charged with making a few desserts for Christmas Eve this year. Dinner is a sit down affair for 32 (that’s not a typo: THIRTY TWO) people. Baked stuffed lobster, linguini with anchovy sauce, fried scallops, and stuffed calamari are just¬† a few of the delicacies my mom prepares. Dessert is typically on the lighter side. Easy bites people can pick up and nibble on while sipping homemade¬†lemoncello¬†are best.

While cruising around Pinterest I found these adorable looking cupcakes. The mini Wilton sugar gingerbread men that Sally’s Baking Addiction ¬†put on top of her cupcakes are adorable. I ran around to all of our local craft stores and could not find them. These cute little trees had to work–and they did! I love the winter wonderland-y effect they have when perched on top of the thick cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes were moist and satisfying and would be a tasty addition to any winter dinner.

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Gingerbread Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup¬†dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.  In a large bowl using a  stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until creamy. Beat in the egg until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the milk, molasses, and vanilla on. Mixture will look slightly curdled.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 19-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

In a medium bowl using a stand mixer beat the cream cheese and butter together on until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more tablespoon of milk if needed to thin out. Beat for 1 minute.

Frost cooled cupcakes immediately before serving. Decorate with sprinkles of cinnamon and your choice of candy.

 

Recipe credit: Sally’s Baking Addiction

 

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Spooky Halloween Pops

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My daughter and I had a great time making these pops together! They seem like such an old school treat. I remember my mom making candy pops for my preschool class and it is something I’ve wanted to do for my daughter’s school. She had so much fun being creative with the colors and got a hoot out of the fact she was using “paint brushes” in candy!

There isn’t really a recipe here–more just a handful of supplies and a method. All of it is spelled out on the back of each bag of Wilton candy melts. I found everything we needed at Michael’s¬†(which by the way is having a 70% off sale on all Halloween items right now)¬†but I am sure you could find it all on Amazon or even easier just order straight from the Wilton Web site.

Spooky Halloween Pops

Supplies:

  • Wilton candy molds of your choice (we used pumpkins, Dracula teeth and eyeballs)
  • Wilton candy melts, any colors
  • Wilton candy brushes
  • Lollipop sticks
  • clear candy bags
  • curly ribbon

Method:

Place candy melts in microwave safe bowls. (One bowl for each color you are using.) Melt according to package directions. Mix well. Using candy brushes to paint your molds as you desire. Use a teaspoon to fill the remaining portion of the mold. Place a lollipop stick on each candy-filled mold and roll so that entire stick is immersed. Let harden over night or pop in the fridge until set.

Place each pop in a plastic candy bag and secure with a piece of ribbon.

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Chewy Molasses Cookies

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Fall! I love it more than ever. The season is even more exciting now that there are two little girls trailing behind me eating up the season as much as I do. We have been baking cookies, taking hikes, going on bike rides, perusing the Halloween decoration aisles of every store and crunching our sneakers through the leaves in our yard. The girls are bursting at the seams with excitement for Halloween and our little countdown calendar is a huge source of pleasure.

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We had a few parties to go to last week and I found myself needing a straightforward recipe that could be made with little notice. These Chewy Molasses cookies fit the bill and I ended up baking several batches over the course of the week. They are thick, chewy, and full of flavor. I especially like that they are sturdy and hold up well to a warm cup of tea. The sanding sugar gives a welcomed little crunch and they have a kick of ginger that was well-received by all. These cookies remind me that it is sometimes the simplest ingredients that yield the most delicious items.

Chewy Molasses Cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • coarse sanding sugar (we roll the cookies in this just prior to baking)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In one bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

In another bowl whisk egg, butter, white sugar, molasses, and brown sugar. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll dough into tablespoon size balls and roll into sanding sugar. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet (or silpat) 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes then rotate sheet pan and bake for another five minutes, or until cookies puff up and crack. Cool on a wire rack.

Source: Bon Appetit.

Brownie Garden for Spring or Easter

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I fell in love with these sweet little garden brownie bites from the moment I came across them on Party Pinching. How cute are they? Start with your favorite brownie recipe, brownie cupcake recipe, boxed brownie mix, or Entenmann’s Little Brownie Bites. Top each with your favorite chocolate frosting recipe (or buy a can of pre-made frosting) and crushed Oreo cookies (for “dirt”). Then use the following items to decorate:

Mini Cabbages

Mini Carrots

  • Orange Mike¬†& Ikes
  • Melted green candy melts
  • Clover shaped candy sprinkles (or the extra cabbage leaves–Frosted Flakes sprayed green with the Wilton color mist)

Flowers

  • Wilton sugar flowers

Enjoy!

Original recipe found here on Party Pinching.

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Veggie Packed Macaroni and Cheese

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My husband is gluten free and our girls LOVE macaroni. I float somewhere in the middle. I am certainly not gluten free (GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!), however, I  could easily live without pasta. Typically I make a single meal for the four of us, however, sometimes it makes sense to make a big batch of macaroni for the kids that can be reheated for lunches and dinners a few nights in a row. And that is how I came to make this veggie packed macaroni.

This was a huge hit with the little ones! In fact, my oldest yelled, “This is the best meal ever!!!” when I set it on the table. Wow! I wish I received that kind of enthusiasm every night! I had to agree with her–this is darn good. I”ll be honest–I think the wheel-shaped macaroni¬†is a huge selling point. The tiny spokes ooze with¬†the gooey, drippy, melty cheese sauce in the most wonderful of ways. Also,¬†the chunky little circles of pasta¬†are easy for little fingers to pick up and pop in their mouths.

Veggie Packed Macaroni and Cheese:

  • 3 cups uncooked wheel-shaped macaroni
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in the macaroni and diced carrots. Set timer for 9 minutes and cook until your timer has four minutes remaining then add the broccoli. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the timer goes off and/or pasta is al dente. Remove from heat, add in the peas, stir, and reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid. Then, drain the pasta/carrot/broccoli/pea mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, then add in the diced onions. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the cheddar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until smooth.

In a large bowl, stir together cooked macaroni/veggies, reserved cooking liquid, + the cheese sauce. Transfer to the prepared 9√ó13 dish. bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Recipe from The Fearless Homemaker.

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Add the shredded cheese.

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Wisk, wisk, wisk, wisk!

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Drain the macaroni and vegetables.

 

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Cheesy deliciousness and veggies!

Oatmeal and Parmesan Crusted Boneless Pork Chops

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We hardly ever eat pork so while meal planning last week I decided to add it to¬†our menu to freshen things up. This recipe reminds me of a homemade version of¬†Shake ‘N Bake. It uses ground oatmeal instead of bread crumbs (to keep the gluten out) while keeping a crisp-ish texture. Use parchment paper to line your pan if you have it. Parchment paper absorbs the moisture from the pork, unlike foil, yielding a better texture.¬†¬†If you are out of¬†parchment paper, like I was when I made these, use foil to line your pan and then just¬†flip the chops¬†and broil them for a few minutes prior to serving. Doing so will eliminate any moisture that might make for a soggy bottom.¬† Did I really¬†just say soggy bottom?

This recipe pairs well with most vegetable sides. Roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, cauliflower¬†rice mash would all be great. Even a simple tossed green salad would work well.¬†The above photo shows it with this broccoli salad, which I highly recommend. It contain bacon. I’ll just leave it at that.

Parmesan and Oatmeal Crusted Pork Chops:

  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup raw, dry, quick cook oatmeal, pulverized in the food processor until smooth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper (or foil) and coat with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl gently mix together cheese, oatmeal, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Rub each pork chop in a thin coat of olive oil. Dip each chop into the cheese mixture and press mixture onto chop so it sticks.

Place each chop in the baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until pork is cooked through. To ensure a crispy top you can put the oven on broil for 3-5 minutes, after baking. This will brown and crisp the tops of the chops.

Adapted from Just a Pinch.

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