Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Trifle

Happy Thanksgiving!

For this trifle you will need:

1 (18.25 ounce) package spice cake mix
 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding (unless it has pudding in the box mix already)
 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups cold milk
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
2 (3.4 ounce) packages cheesecake flavor instant pudding and pie filling
 3 cups whipped topping
Ginger snap cookies (crumbled)
Caramel sauce (homemade or ice cream topping)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine the cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs, and pie spice in a large mixing bowl; pour into the prepared dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add milk and cheesecake pudding mix until combined. Let sit about 2 minutes. Fold in 2 cups of the whipped topping.

Layer 1/3 of the cake cubes into the bottom of a large bowl; drizzle with caramel sauce. Then top the cake with 1/3 of the cream mixture and sprinkle with crumbled ginger snaps. Repeat layering until all ingredients are used. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Before serving top with whipped cream, more ginger snaps crumbs and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars and Life

I have had alot going on in my life the last few weeks. The old saying, "When it rains it pours", pretty much sums up my life lately. I wasn't going to post anything on my blog about it all and just stick to talking about food, but oh well, so much for that. My mind has been consumed with everything going on. 

My best friend had a baby about three weeks ago and has been in the hospital ever since. There have been complications and it has been one thing after another. We are praying continuously for her. Thankfully, the baby boy is healthy, beautiful and a constant joy.
Then yesterday, I get the call that my Grandfather has passed away. It was not a surprise, he was in hospice care, yet still a sad day. Every Christmas was spent at his house. He was a quiet, strong man who loved us all dearly in his own special way. Since the day I was born, he never missed a birthday. No matter where I moved to or how old I got, I always knew there would be a card in my mailbox from my Grandpa. With Thanksgiving just three short days away, I want to tell you how thankful I am. Yes, life tries to get the better of you, but you have a choice to drown in self pity or find the blessing. My Grandfather left a journal for his children and grandchildren and I cannot wait to read what he has left us. As I stated, he was quiet and humble, but has accomplished much. I know I will be posting more about him in the future. 
Of course, when things get me a bit down, I bake.
Let's talk about this dessert for a minute.

You will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Cream Cheese Layer:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Caramel topping:
You could use my homemade one found here. I made it ahead of time and had it ready.
or caramel ice cream topping

I found this recipe on, you can find her recipe here. The only thing I did differently, was use my own caramel sauce and added extra to the cheesecake layer.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

This has a few steps, but it all comes together nicely and is so worth it. 
Let's start with three Granny Smith apples.

After you have peeled and diced them, sprinkle with the sugar and spices, so  nice. Put aside.

Next, make the struesel topping. Mix all the struesel ingredients together and mix until crumble. I actually used my hands to crumble.

Onto the base. 
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly but combined. Press evenly into a 9X13-inch baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
I used the two forks method and it worked nicely.

While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix well. 

Now that we have everything ready, it will be a sinch to put together.
Oh, I did make the caramel sauce a day ahead and had it ready. 

Pour the cheesecake layer over the warm crust.

Spoon the apple layer even over the cheesecake layer.

Sprinkle the struesel topping on the apple layer.
Bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set.

While still warm, drizzle on the caramel topping, reserving some for each individual slice. 

Then slice, drizzle and enjoy!

I am thankful to you for following along with my blog and letting me talk about life with you. 
I know many of you have lost loved ones and can sympathize with me. Let's be thankful for the time shared with them. My Grandpa was Italian, he came over to the US when he was a boy. Every Christmas we had an Italian feast, I loved it! I will be posting a recipe in honor of him soon.

Does your family have a favorite food tradition? I would love to hear it.

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Simply Saturday: Caramel Sauce

Yes, I know, you would rather know what this delicious looking dish is than hear about how to make caramel sauce. I promise to post this dessert and tutorial next week, but for now I would like to dedicate this post to just caramel sauce. I have made it many different ways and I believe I have finally found one that comes out the same way every time. I love this stuff, I really can't tell you how much this caramel makes me happy.

You will need:
3 cups granulated sugar, divided (2 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
 1/8 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, corn syrup, and milk. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves and no longer has a granular feeling. Keep warm over low heat.

In a separate deep, heavy saucepan, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and spread evenly over the bottom. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar dissolves and begins to turn an amber color. You may “swirl” your pan if necessary to re-distribute sugar while cooking.

As soon as the sugar turns colors, carefully add the warm milk mixture into the heavy saucepan. It will bubble up vigorously and sizzle and the caramel on the bottom will harden.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the caramel dissolves and the liquid turns caramel color. Then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (235°F) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter.

This is what mine looks like when I am all finished. Grab a spoon and enjoy! Ok, I guess you can drizzle over everything instead. I actually jar some of this and it will keep up to 1 week. I also put some in a squeeze bottle to drizzle at will. 

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Pumpkin Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my comfort foods is a good chocolate chip cookie. Honestly, I can never turn one down, nor have I met one I didn't like. So on this cold, rainy day (at least it is here right now) let's have one.

I never use a stand mixer for my chocolate chip cookies. I mix them by hand, more love that way. But that's just me, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy and like I'm a little girl again in my mom's kitchen.

I had some extra pumpkin that I needed to use. I found this recipe on and it does not disappoint. Her complete recipe is here.
 You will need:

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

In one bowl mix the dry ingredients, in the other the everything else, but the chocolate chips.
Gradually add the dry to the wet.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon onto a cookie sheet. Try not to eat all the dough, I know it is tempting.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 13 minutes. My oven bakes a bit quicker so it was 11-12 minutes for  me.
These were so yummy warm, but I managed to save some to take to a church dinner the next day.

Baking from my heart to your kitchen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EasyApple Turnover

I know all over "blog land" today there are supposed to be pies, however, they still scare me. The crust alone keeps me up at night. I have had alot going on these days, so I wasn't about to tackle that. I decided instead to do an Apple Turnover. 
The recipe calls for Granny Smith apples, but I only had Red Delicious. They worked just fine. Slice about 5 or 6 of them and place in about 4 cups of water with 2 Tbls of lemon so they don't brown. 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Here is what you will need:

4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 (17.25 ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

Let's start with the puff pastry sheets. Maybe you would like to make your own, that would be grand. If you do, please share with me. For now, these work great.
Unroll them and lay flat. If there are cracks, sprinkle water on them and smooth out.

Cut the sheets in half, then in half again so you have 8 squares.

Once again, the distracted bug bit me and I didn't get pictures of this whole process. 
This is what you do to get delicious apple filling.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain water from apples, and place them into the hot skillet. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Pour into the skillet, and mix well. Cook for another minute, or until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Spoon a good amount of apple onto the puff pastry.

Fold over carefully. I always have apple goodness oozing out the sides. Just try to seal it as best as possible. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet to bake. That way you don't ruin your pan with the apple goodness.

I like to eat them nice and warm. I usually burn my tongue. 
You could drizzle icing over it at this point or caramel, my favorite.

Maybe one day I will tackle an apple pie. 

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Simply Saturday: Lining your cake pan

A while back I watched an episode of "Good Eats" with Alton Brown. He was talking about cheesecake and during this episode he used a trick to line his pan. It revolutionized my life. Well, at least made it easier.

Maybe you already have a fabulous way to line your pans, but this is what works for me.

First, parchment paper. I cut a square piece out a little bigger than the pan

Fold that piece in half.

Fold it in half again.

Then fold over into a triangle.

Fold over again to form a cone shape.

Point toward the middle of the pan. You could also turn the pan over and find the middle with the point of your parchment paper.

Then cut the size of the pan.

As I have mentioned before, I have issues with cutting in straight lines, so I always have to trim it a little.

Place the circle in bottom of pan. It "should" fit perfectly. Sometimes my circle is not very circular, but that is just error on my part.

If you would like to see Alton Brown's illustration go here 
He also lines the sides of the pans, but I never do unless baking cheesecake.

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lego Birthday Cake

Lego Cake!
I had a bit of trouble creating this cake, but it was just user error on my part, so please learn from my silly mistakes and make a fabulous cake. 
I was asked to make this cake for my friend's son, for his 5th birthday. She knew she wanted something Lego.
I went researching, I found a few ideas that I liked, so I put them all together.

What you will need:
1/2 sheet cake
(I made my favorite chocolate cake)
Buttercream frosting 
(I used Oreo buttercream for filling and vanilla buttercream for the outside)
(I tinted mine blue, but you could use any color)

Here is my 1/2 sheet cake cooling.

It domed a bit, so I had to slice some off the top to even it out. My son was a great supervisor.

For all things measured, my husband is the expert. My cakes would not be straight if it were not for him. I seriously cannot cut in a straight line, so he put toothpicks where I needed to slice. I love that man.

I sliced the cake into three even sections.

In between each layer was the Oreo Buttercream.

Here is the finished layering. It looks a little wonky, but it was "squarish".

Crumb coat with buttercream and place in the fridge to set. Then put another layer of frosting on.  
You could tint the buttercream blue and call it a day, but fondant is more forgiving, or so I thought.
Read on.

After you the frost with final coat of butterecream, smooth out. I use the Viva paper towel method.
So technical right?

Basically, put a Viva paper towel over the chilled cake and start smoothing with your hand or a fancy shmancy tool like mine.I know it is not that shmancy, but humor me.
Yes, to answer your question, it has to be Viva, no they are not paying me, they are just the only paper towel without a pattern. 

Cover the cake with your fondant. Not like this! Mine kept cracking and poofing out.
No matter what I tried it would not work. I had to make a whole other batch.
Just thought I would let you in on a "what could happen" situation. In such cases you could try to smooth it out with Crisco, or put some kind of decoration on it, to cover the flaw. In this case however, my fondant was too dry, I believe I used too much powdered sugar. I had to just make it all over, there was no saving it. Grrr... I was not irritated at all. Just ask my husband.
You got me, it was a wee bit irritated, but I moved on.

After taking a few hundred deep breaths, I successfully covered the cake. It was not perfectly square, but at that point, I was willing to live with it.
The circles on top are made with fondant.
I rolled the remaining fondant out thick and sliced with a circular cookie cutter. You could also use a round glass as well. Basically anything the size of the circle you want.

I cut out fondant letters for his name and some rectangles for Lego looking decoration for the corners.
I do apologize for not taking more pictures of those.I cut out some fondant 5's and put them on top of the circles. 
The main thing to remember is that the birthday boy loved it and that is all that matters.

Do you have some tips to get a perfectly square cake? Please let me know!

From my heart to your kitchen,