Friday, December 20, 2013
I wanted to make some kind of pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving this year (yes, I know, this post is a little late). I couldn't find a recipe that was exactly what I wanted so I decided to put a couple of recipes together instead. These creamy pumpkin pies turned out great... and they're even better with vanilla ice cream!
I could have just made a pumpkin pie, but that seemed too ordinary. I found this recipe for individual peanut butter cheesecakes and decided to use it to create a similar pumpkin cheesecake, except that I didn't have enough cream cheese to actually make cheesecake... and who wants to go back to the grocery store on Thanksgiving day? Not me... so I improvised (pumpkin is a pretty forgiving ingredient so it worked out). Besides, I wanted pumpkin anyway. Too much cream cheese would have just gotten in the way!
Mini Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Pies
Makes 12 mini pies
4 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/8 tsp salt
12 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves (ground)
1/2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
2. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar (4 Tbsp) and salt until well combined. Scoop a heaping tablespoon into each cup. Use the rounded back of the tablespoon to press down into cups and slightly up the sides. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar (1 cup) together until smooth. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Beat again until smooth. While mixer is going, sprinkle in the flour and spices. Then add the eggs one at a time until they are fully incorporated.
4. Add pumpkin mixture to cups until almost full.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are set. Allow to cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve later.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
This is a super simple recipe (with the possible exception of actually dipping them in the chocolate with dropping them), and they're delicious. Of course they are. Who doesn't like peanut butter and chocolate, combined with cookies and lots of sugar?!
There were often multiple batches of Peanut Butter Balls in my house growing up because my dad and brother don't like coconut, and I don't like nuts. Both of those are optional ingredients, clearly. You can choose which type of chocolate pieces to use. I recommend milk or dark chocolate. The semisweet chocolate chips are just not sweet enough after melting them with the paraffin wax.
For Peanut Butter Balls:
2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 cup pecan chopped fine (optional)
7-oz. chopped coconut (optional)
2 sticks of margarine
10-oz. confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 small jar creamy peanut butter
3/4 cake paraffin wax
1 pkg chocolate pieces
1. Melt wax with 1 pkg chocolate pieces in a double boiler (or you can use a bowl over a pot of boiling water if you don't have a double boiler).
2. Mix the peanut butter ball ingredients and make them into balls. Chill for 30 minutes.
3. Dip balls into chocolate from the double boiler, using toothpicks, and allow them to dry on wax paper.
Note: If the balls are falling apart as you try to dip them, try chilling them for longer, or even putting them in the freezer. When I made them this year, my kitchen was too hot because there was a lot of baking happening at once and they kept falling apart! I put them in the freezer and tried again once all of the other items were finished!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
These decadent German Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies are a perfect addition to my plethora of recipes for chocolate lovers (which happens to include me). Sometimes I feel bad for making so many amazing desserts and tempting my friends with them. On one side, I'm a workoutaholic who prefers to have a healthy diet, but on the other side, I love chocolate (and sugar in general). My personal opinion is that if I have a sugary sweet available to satisfy a craving, I'm less likely to binge on sweets when I just can't take it anymore! And, I only bake when I know there will be others to share in eating. Moderation is key!
4 oz. German sweet baking chocolate
5 tbs. butter
3 oz. Cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. flour
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Almond extract
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Melt chocolate and 3 tbs. butter over very low heat (I actually microwaved the butter and chocolate for about 30 seconds - it won't appear to be melted, but it will be liquid once stirred). Cool.
In a mixing bowl, cream remaining butter with cream cheese until softened. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, cream until light and fluffy. Stir in 1 egg, 1 tbs. flour and 1/2 tsp. vanilla until blended. Set aside.
Beat remaining eggs until fluffy and light in color. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar beating until thickened. Fold in baking powder, salt and remaining 1/2 cup flour. Blend in chocolate mixture. Stir in nuts (optional), almond extract and 1 tsp. vanilla. Set one cup of brownie batter aside.
Spread remaining chocolate batter in greased and floured 9 inch pan. Pour cream cheese mixture over top. Drop measured chocolate batter over top and swirl to marble.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool and cut into squares.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Chocolate cake is my favorite, and this one certainly delivered!
Three of the members of our Life Group have September birthdays so I decided to celebrate, and what better to celebrate with than a chocolate cake! This is a simple chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream frosting. It was AMAZING... so amazing that I "need" to make another one ASAP!!
The cake recipe and the buttercream recipe both called for unsweetened chocolate, but I didn't have any so I decided to use semi-sweet chocolate. As far as I'm concerned, the sweeter the better!
The buttercream turned out a little bit dry, which wasn't super pretty, but tasted great. I ended up covering it with ganache anyway. I didn't actually take a photo of the cake with my camera, but I did snap a "you're late and this is what you're missing" photo on my phone to send to one of the birthday girls! It's not the best picture, but here it is...
I knew I'd be short on time so I made the cake the night before and the frosting the day of.
By the way... this cake received great reviews from my guests!
KitchenAid Chocolate Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted (or semisweet chocolate)
Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl. Add shortening, milk and vanilla. Mix on low speed about 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add eggs and chocolate. Continue on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium/high speed for about 1 minute.
Pour batter into two greased and floured 8 or 9-inch baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack. Frost if desired.
KitchenAid Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted (or semisweet)
Place butter in mixer bowl. Turn to medium speed and beat about 1 1/2 minutes, or until creamy. Stop and scrape bowl. Add corn syrup. Turn to low speed and mix well. Stop and scrape bowl.
Turn to stir speed. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing until blended. Turn to medium speed and mix about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to low speed. Slowly add melted chocolate and mix about 1 1/2 minutes. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to medium speed and beat about 1 minute.
Dark Chocolate Ganache (from: Oysters and Pearls)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup dark chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon room temperature butter
Bring the cream to a simmer in a sauce pan. Be careful -- it's easy to scald it. Put the chocolate in a measuring cup or bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes. Using a whisk, stir it up until creamy. Then add the room temperature butter and continue whisking. Let cool for a few minutes before using to drizzle over or ice anything.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Jesse Owens wins four gold medals for the USA! Berlin was the site of the 1936 Summer Olympics, during the time that Germany was under Nazi control. Hitler believed that the Germanic People were the most pure race and were thus superior to other races. He hoped to use the games, which were awarded to Berlin prior to Nazi control in 1931, to show the world the superiority of the Germanic Race. In contrast to Hitler's belief, Jesse Owens, an African American Track and Field Athlete from the United States, considered inferior by the Nazi's because of his race, won four gold medals and was the most successful athlete at the 1936 games (The German athletes also fared well at the games).
|Inside Olympiastadion 2013|
|Roof of Olympiastadion 2013|
|Stadium entrance from inside the park|
|Marathon Gate and site of the Olympic flame|
|Maifeld, Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower|
|Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower|
|Waldbuene, among the forest|
|Equestrian Facility at Olympiastadion|
|Many statues, like this one, can be found at Olympiastadion|
|View of Olympiastadion from the Bell Tower, looking toward the Marathon Gate. The Berlin skyline can be seen in the background.|
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
After a long day of touring Berlin, and on the way back into the city from The Olympic Stadium, we stopped in Charlottenburg to visit the palace and search for dinner. Parts of the palace are open to the public for a fee but had already closed for the day. However, we were still able to see the grounds and garden (chances are that we wouldn't have paid to go inside anyway).
The Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg), located in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough, is the only remaining royal palace in Berlin. It was originally commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg (Friedrich later crowned himself King Friedrich I of Prussia in 1701). It was inaugurated in 1699. At the time it consisted of one wing and 2 1/2 stories.
|Charlottenburg Palace Orangerie|
The palace was named Charlottenburg after Sophie Charlotte, who died in 1705. The orangery was built in the years after her death. The dome was also added to the center of the building at that time.
|There is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue on top to the dome.|
|Garden at Charlottenburg|
|Duck Pond at Charlottenburg|
|View of the garden and back of Charlottenburg Palace|
Friday, July 5, 2013
Berlin is the capital of Germany and home to a rich history. The city was first documented in the 13th century, but at the time, was not an important city. Because of its location, over the years, Berlin became one of the most important cities in the area. Between 1701 and 1945, Berlin was the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, The German Empire, The Weimer Republic and the Third Reich. After WWII, Berlin was divided into East and West (see Berlin: The Wall), and West Berlin, contained entirely in East Germany, was surrounded by the Berlin Wall from 1961-1989. After German Reunification in 1990, the city of Berlin again became the capital city of Germany.
Today Berlin is a meeting of old and new. In the midst of the modern city stand many structures that are a daily reminder, both to residents and visitors, of the city's past.
Potsdamer Platz marks the point where the road from Potsdam passed through the old city wall of Berlin at the Potsdam Gate, which was severely damaged during WWII and later demolished when the Berlin wall was built.
|A small section of the old city wall of Berlin still exists near Klosterstrasse|
|The Spree River looking towards the Berlin Dome|
One block from the Holocaust Museum stands Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, one of the most well-known landmarks of Germany. The gate, which should not be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Potsdam, was rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch. The gate was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia. It was damaged during WWII and was inaccesible in postwar Germany because it was directly next to the Berlin Wall (click here for a photo of the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin wall shortly before it fell in 1989). The gate was fully restored between 2000 and 2002.
|Berlin's Brandenburg Gate|
|Note the height of the Brandenburg Gate|
|Sidewalk Chalk Artist near the Brandenburg Gate|
|Hotel Adlon on the Pariser Platz|
|The Oberbaum Bridge is a double-decker bridge crossing the Spree River on Oberbaum Strasse.|
|East Berlin Ampelmann character in front of an Ampelmann Store|
|Sign in front of an Ampelmann store showing the pedestrian traffic signals in several countries|
|Statue of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia from 1740-1786|