Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball

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This was one of the first recipes that my oldest daughter made a few years ago when she started cooking.  I think it must have been her love of cheesecake, and chocolate, that spurred her to try out this recipe.

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But it’s truly the simplicity of it, that’s kept it in rotation for holidays, and celebrations, throughout the years.  Did I mention that it’s a no-bake recipe?!  If you’re feeling ambitious – make these homemade graham crackers – you’ll love them!

If not, no worries, no one will notice – the cheeseball is that good!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball Adapted from Food, Faith, Fun

1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese

1 stick of salted butter, slightly softened

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

¾ cup powdered sugar

½ cup mini chocolate chips

½ cup roasted pecans, finely chopped

In a medium size bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy. Beat in the sugars until creamy.  Then beat in chocolate chips until combined.

Scrape the bowl, to make sure everything is mixed well.  Then scoop the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap it up into a ball shape.*  Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Get a new sheet of plastic wrap and lay it flat on the counter, sprinkle it evenly with the (cooled) roasted chopped pecans.  Then carefully unwrap the chilled cheeseball and place it on the plastic wrap with the pecans and roll it in the pecans to coat all over.

Wrap it up again – in the sheet of plastic wrap with the pecans, or a new sheet of plastic wrap (reshaping the cheeseball as needed while wrapping it), and continue to chill it in the refrigerator for another 2 hours.

After it has chilled, and set up, unwrap the cheeseball and place it on a serving plate/platter.  Serve with graham crackers and strawberries.

*The mixture will be really soft, like cream cheese frosting – don’t worry, it’ll firm up as it’s chilling.

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It’s Christmas in July!

You all, I just love Christmas – the lights, the music, the cookies, the ornaments, the shopping!!  So when I discovered that one of my very favorite online shops was having 40% off some of their custom stamps – I just had to let you all in on it.  Eek, I’m so excited!

Larger ImagePhoto Source: Jaded Blossom Stamps

How cute are these!!  Ugg, I just can’t stand it!  The company, Jaded Blossom Stamps, was created by Candace and Michelle in 2011.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon their website about a year ago, and I may have made a few (at least 7!) purchases since then.  I haven’t had a single problem with any of my orders, which I have to say has been really refreshing.

All of their stamps need to be used with an acrylic block for stamping – and I highly recommend these – acrylic stamp blocks.

As a few of you may know, I’m not particularly crafty.  However, I do love a good stamp on the back of a holiday envelope, or on a tag attached to a box of some really fabulous cupcakes, or chocolates. . .I’m not picky.  😉

Did I mention that their shipping is also super fast, and very reasonable?!  Do yourself a favor, and check them out!

While I’m at it, I’m going to share a few more of my favorite shops/products below so you can keep your eye out for any sales in the next few months, or get started on your Christmas shopping.  I’m all about getting it done early!

Photo Source: Steele Canvas

Here’s another online shop that I love.  Steele Canvas, is family owned, operated, and American made in Massachusetts.  I use the permanent truck (shown above) to cart my laundry around – it’s so much easier than hefting a basket full of clothes!  I’ve also been known to load one of my Steele Canvas trucks with groceries to make unloading easier.

Their baskets/trucks are expensive, but you get what you pay for – they’re extremely durable, and built to last.  I’ve had mine for over 5 years, I use them daily, and they both look as good as the day I bought them.  Totally worth the $$!

Photo Source:  Homer Laughlin/Fiesta Factory Direct

This is one of those items that I like to buy everyone I know, for absolutely every occasion.  It’s oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe – which means, you can use it for roasting veggies, baking pizza, serving a layered dip, or as a cake plate (one of my favorite uses to be sure)!  It also comes in a wide array of colors, so it’s sure to please just about everyone on your list!

FAIRY BREAD Sprinkle Medley - SweetapolitaPhoto Source: Sweetapolita

If you’re looking for a unique gift for your sprinkle obsessed friend – look no further!  Rosie, the owner, of the Canadian-based sprinkletastic Sweetapolita, carries her own custom line of mixed sprinkles, cookie cutters, enamel pins, and sprinkle coin purses and totes bags.  Right now, they’re offering free shipping to the U.S. with a $75 purchase – which is fabulous considering how much it costs to ship from Canada to here, and add that to the fact that’ll you’ll inevitably spend at least $75 anyhow on your first purchase!  It’s a good deal.  🙂

*I forgot to mention, that Sweetapolita also sells Stateside, just click her website and click the “Find a Retailer” tab.  Easy peasy!

I should mention that while I love looking at all of the sprinkle combos available on their website, being from Canada, they do use quite a few inedible (in the U.S.) metal sprinkles/batons.  That being said, I love their Fairy Bread Sprinkle Medley, shown above close up (which contains no metals) – and shown below, on what must be the cutest dachshund sugar cookie in history!

Sausage Dog Cookie Cutter - Sweetapolita

Photo Source: Sweetapolita

Meri Meri is based in England, and they truly have some of the most whimsical, fun cookie cutter designs (see above) and party decorations.  Luckily, I’ve been able to purchase from Sweetapolita, Williams Sonoma, Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay to get ahold of some of their items, without having to purchase directly from England.

Photo Source: Maskcara Beauty

I love this brand, because there are so many different shades to choose from, they’re creamy, and they blend beautifully.

There was a time that they had sets that were already put together – so you didn’t have to guess what color you needed, but it looks like they’ve begun individually selling the shades for optimal customization.

For the Highlighter I use either Sunlit or Aura.

For the Contour I use either Stone or Olive.

For the Illuminator I use Rose Gold.

For the Blush I prefer Pink Grapefruit and Nude.

I also love their 30 sec HAC brush.

Like many other ladies out there, I am a cosmetic product junkie.  There are a few brands out there that I’m all about – I’m looking at you ColourPop!  But I’m also open to trying out new products, and I have been using Maskcara Beauty since it first came out a few years ago.  It’s definitely become one of my go-to product lines!

Washed Marsh/Heathered Washed Marsh

Photo Source: Lululemon

My sister-in-law started buying these headbands for my headband-loving-daughter a few years ago, and since I cut my hair shorter, I desperately needed a way to pull it back since I couldn’t use my trusty hairbands anymore.  Curse you shorter hair!

This is the color I got (above) – Washed Marshed/Heathered Washed Marsh, and I love it.  I bought it in an actual Lululemon store for the first time ever, since one just opened up at our local mall.  However, I’m not sure I would go in again, because while checking out, one of the ladies that works there – not the cashier, wanted to know what kind of exercise I was doing, since you know, I was buying a headband, and I guess in some universe those two things are synonymous.  Who knew?!

As you can imagine, I was a little taken aback, because I was knee deep in the middle of my current rigorous exercise routine – running errands, wrangling kids, and throwing money at people, but somehow she didn’t seem to recognize it as exercise.  Sheesh!  So in order not to make this awkward situation more awkward, I told her that I was doing yoga.  I used to do it, I’m sure when I bend over to pick up laundry I’m doing some interpretive form of a yoga pose, so it’s not completely untrue.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

IMG_6186_editedI can’t believe it’s already the middle of the summer!  Where is the time going?!  I don’t know about you, but there are certain things in life that I’ll never miss (are you with me?) – like school traffic, homework, lost lunchboxes, teacher emails, and rushing to get dinner on the table before a 2 1/2 hour school night concert!!  Yes, these are things I feel confident I’ll never miss!

And why, oh why, does it seem like summer just races by, and the rest of the school year just plods along?  I know the answer, but whyyyy????!!!!

Ugg!  But instead of focusing on the inevitable drudgery that is the school pick up/drop off line, let’s focus instead on happier things . . . like cake.  And not just any cake – soft, buttery cake, with crispy cinnamon sugar streusel on top.

Be sure to put this on your “to bake” list for the summer, and add a side of fresh fruit – you know, so it’s “healthy.”  Then throw on your swimsuit and jump in your neighbor’s neighborhood pool, and swim off those extra calories, because they were so worth it!

Just a few notes – this recipe is for an 8 inch cake, which is the perfect size for small families, or larger ones (that just don’t want lots of leftovers).  If you do find yourself with any leftovers, I highly recommend freezing individual slices, and then rewarming them in the microwave on defrost, until the cake reaches the temperature you desire.

As a side note, my nephew and I made this coffeecake together this summer – we doubled the recipe, but I forgot to increase the baking time.  Don’t be like me!  If you double the recipe, please, oh please, remember to increase the baking time!  I believe it took 50-60 minutes to bake a 9 x 13 pan.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake  Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Streusel

1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark), I used dark in the photo above

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 Tablespoons salted butter, cold & cut into chunks

Cake

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sour cream (full fat)

Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 splash of vanilla

2 Tablespoons milk or water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

For the streusel, in a food processor, place all of the ingredients for the streusel, and process until it looks like coarse sand.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside (covered) in the refrigerator until you are ready for it.

For the cake batter, Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or handheld beater) beat the butter on high for 1 minute.  Add the sugar, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Beat in the vanilla, sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, and salt – just until combined.

Beat in the flour, just until combined.  Scrape the bowl, and mix the batter by hand with a rubber scraper one final time.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth out with a rubber scraper.  Sprinkle the cake batter with half of the streusel mixture.  Pour the remaining cake batter on top of the streusel, carefully spreading the batter over the streusel.  Then top with the last half of the remaining streusel.

Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.  Then carefully remove the cake from the pan by lifting the foil edges to heft it out.  Alternatively, you could simply serve the cake straight out of the pan after glazing.

For the glaze, place powdered sugar in a small bowl, and whisk in the milk and vanilla.  If the glaze is lumpy, simply add more powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Store any leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.  Or freeze individually wrapped slices for about 1 month – reheat (unwrapped) cake slices in the microwave on defrost until warm.

 

 

 

 

Chewy Dark Chocolate Brownies

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These brownies are the best.  I don’t throw that word around often – so believe me when I say it!  They’re chewy like boxed mix brownies, but more decadent.  I think they’re a lot of fun to make – just listening to the sound of butter browning makes me happy.  What can I say, it’s the little things.  🙂

Honestly, both my husband and kids love these, and it’s not often that they like the same types of desserts!  These have been on repeat since school started – I know they’re going to be a favorite at your house too!

Chewy Dark Chocolate Brownies Adapted from BraveTart

3/4 cup flour

1 1/4 cups dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Brute)

3 sticks of unsalted butter

1 cup chocolate dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Scharffen Berger 62% Semisweet Dark Chocolate Baking Bar)

2 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

6 large eggs, cold

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil – make sure there’s enough foil to hang over the pan for easy brownie removal.  Spray with nonstick spray, and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder – set aside.

In a medium pot, add the sticks of butter and cook on medium to medium-high heat (about 5 1/2) on a gas range until the butter is melted and slightly toasted.  You’ll hear the crackle and popping from the butter as it melts – occasionally lift the pot and swirl the butter around – or stir it with a wooden spoon.  When it’s done browning, the crackling will stop and the butter with get foamy and start rising up the sides of the pot.  This should take about 8-10 minutes.

When the butter is finished, take it off the stove, and pour in the chocolate chunks.  Stir with a wooden spoon (scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan), until the chocolate is melted.  Set aside while you make the rest of the batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cold eggs together with the sugars, salt, and vanilla for 8 minutes on medium-high speed.  Set a timer!

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly pour in the warm chocolate butter mixture.  Once combined, spoon in the flour/cocoa mixture with the mixer on low.  Beat on medium for 30 seconds to completely incorporate all the ingredients.  Scrape the bowl, and beat again on medium for another 10 seconds.  Then scrape the bowl, stir to make sure everything was incorporated and pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  The middle will have risen and the entire surface will have large cracks running through it.  This is one of those rare times where I don’t use a toothpick, because it would come out with batter, even though it’s done baking.

Place the pan on the counter to cool for 1 hour – the brownies will continue to bake in the pan from residual heat.  Carefully remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the foil sides from the pan and place them on the counter.  Gently pull the foil down from around the sides of the brownies and cut.

The brownies are moist and fudgy, but they’ll also set up more after 12 hours.  So don’t worry too much if you think you’ve overbaked them!

These freeze beautifully, and will keep in a covered container for 4-5 days (if they last that long!).

Sunken Chocolate Chunk Nutella Bread

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If you make 1 thing new this week – this should be it.  I found this recipe a few months ago, and I’ve made it at least a dozen times since.  It’s so good!

It’s chocolaty, moist, dense, fudgy,  slightly sweet, and cold.  It’s an insane combination.  And because it naturally sinks in the center, I felt it was only right to adorn it with chocolate chunks and mini chocolate chips, and I’m not sorry.  Believe me, the chocolates on top totally make this – so don’t skimp!

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And if there’s not enough to love about it already, it’s a one bowl recipe.  I mix everything together in my food processor, pour it into a baking pan, douse it with copious amounts of chocolate, and bake it off.  So easy!  And extra bonus, it’s naturally gluten free and it has a few yummy secret ingredients in it – I’m looking at you pumpkin puree and cinnamon.

*Just a few notes that have been brought to my attention.  Thanks Gina!  The chocolate chips, chunks, and minis can be dark, milk, or semisweet!  It’s your choice!  Whatever chocolate you like to eat, you’ll love on top of this sweet bread.  Also, if the loaf domes – yay you!  Maybe it’s the altitude??  Or maybe I don’t bake it long enough – I like the fudgy texture.  Also, lining with parchment can be a challenge, so I like to use metal clips to hold down the sides of the parchment of my baking pan while I’m filling it with batter to help minimize parchment shifting.    

Sunken Chocolate Chunk Nutella Bread Adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings

1 (13 ounce jar) Nutella

1/3 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Brute)

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of coarse kosher salt

pinch of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chunks

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 4 inch bread pan with parchment; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the first 8 ingredients.  Pulse, then scrape the sides of the bowl, and then puree for about 1-2 minutes, until nice and smooth.  If needed, scrape the sides again, and pulse as needed.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Top with the chocolate chunks and mini chocolate chips.  Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few wet crumbs on it when done.

Let cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, and then carefully remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, wrap with the bread with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight, if you can wait) before serving.

Serve slices cold.  Yum!

*Any leftovers should keep for 4-5 days wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

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I love baking pans of brownies, because they’re not too fussy.  I will admit that while this recipe isn’t difficult or time consuming, it does take some forward thinking since it requires an overnight rest in the refrigerator.  No instant gratification here!

I love that the brownie is dense and chewy, and you get contrast from the crunchy salted peanuts and the chocolate chips on top, and then of course, a bite of yummy peanut butter cup in the middle.  It’s perfection!

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies Adapted from Extreme Brownies

1 (12 ounce) bag mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped and set aside

3 sticks of unsalted butter

4.5 ounces unsweetened Baker’s baking chocolate

1 1/2 cups Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

6 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups flour

1/4 cup of salted peanuts, chopped

1/2 cup Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a medium pot on low heat, melt the butter, unsweetened baking chocolate, bittersweet chocolate chips, and salt just until melted.  Be sure to stir constantly to prevent burning.  When the butter and chocolates are completely melted, turn off the burner and allow the chocolate to remain on the stove until needed.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugars until incorporated.  Add the vanilla, and the melted chocolate mixture – whisking continuously while combining.  Whisk in the baking powder, and the flour just until combined.  Scrape the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Press mini peanut butter cups into the batter – be sure to start 1/2 inch from the edges (since those will be removed later).  Use an icing spatula to press down peanut butter cups and cover with brownie batter.  Sprinkle on chopped peanuts and milk chocolate chips.

Bake in the oven for  about 35 minutes – check for doneness by shaking the pan, the batter should be firm in the center like set up Jello.  Take brownies out of the oven, and let them cool in the pan.  Once cool, cover the pan with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator to set up overnight.

Once completely cooled overnight, cut off the outer edges and slice brownies.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for 1 month.

Enjoy!

Triple Berry Cream Cheese Pastry

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Sometimes I think Unique Sweets is going to be the death of me.  I mean, come on!  All those amazing treats.  This is my replica of the Brooklyn Kolache Company’s Berry Sweet Cheese (I think that was the name of their pastry).  Of course I’ve never eaten one of theirs, but I just couldn’t resist throwing a similar one together since the flavors sounded so amazing.

Whew!  As you can tell, this is one of those recipes that has a lot of components.  Perfect for the holidays – how can anyone resist the jewel color of those gorgeous berries?!

These are soft (almost like a chewy pretzel at the mall, but sweet) with a pocket of sweet berries and gooey cheesecake, and a slight crunch from the streusel.  Just make these!

I know I’m probably just about the only person talking about berries right now – it’s pumpkin season!  But I couldn’t resist.  I figure I can’t possibly be the only person that spends the summer picking so I can enjoy fresh berries in the winter.  Anyone else out there?!

Triple Berry Filling Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries

1 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries

1 cup frozen unsweetened blackberries

1 lemon juiced (zest before juicing and save for the cheesecake filling)

In a large pot, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

TIP!: Whisking the granulated sugar and salt with the cornstarch will buff out all the lumps so you have a clear lump-free filling!

Add in the berries and the lemon juice.  Stir to wet everything.  Cook on medium heat on the stove until the mixture starts to boil, being sure to stir constantly once it starts bubbling.  Cook for another 3 minutes, or until nice and thick.

If the berries are still too big, mash them a few times with a potato masher.  Set aside to cool.  Once the filling is cool, place it in a covered storage container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sugar Streusel Adapted from Clinton St. Baking Company

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick of salted butter

Pulse all of the ingredients in the food processor until crumbly – like sand.  Pour into a covered storage container and refrigerate until ready to use.

It will last a few weeks in the refrigerator – use the leftovers on muffins!

Cheesecake Filling Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

pinch of coarse kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

zest of 1 lemon (reserved from the berry filling)

With a hand mixer on medium speed; beat together the cream cheese, cornstarch, salt and sugar until creamy (about 2 minutes).  Add the egg and zest – beat on low until combined.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Sour Cream Dough Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 package of active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup of sour cream

2 Tablespoons shortening

3 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

3 cups flour, plus extra for kneading

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast, water, and sugar together.  Let sit to proof.

In a small pot, whisk together the sour cream, shortening, sugar, and salt.  Heat on low whisking constantly until the shortening is completely melted (there won’t be any lumps) – do not let it boil!  Whisk in the baking soda.

Whisk the sour cream mixture into the yeast, then whisk in the egg.  Stir in the flour until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft, and slightly tacky, but not sticking to the counter.

Cover the dough for 5 minutes to rest.  Then divide the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, and place them on a quarter sheet pan (that’s lined with parchment and sprayed with nonstick spray); gently press them flat.  Cover with a damp towel, and let rise for about 45 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once they have risen, gently stretch out the dough (with your fingers) in the center to make a well.  Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of berry filling into the well, pipe (or spoon) in about 1/2 Tablespoon of cheesecake filling, and dust the pastries with the streusel (be generous as most of it will melt, or dissolve into the filling).  Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.  Then carefully remove each pastry from the pan and let them finish cooling on a wire baking rack.

TIP!: you can gently press into the dough to see if it’s done – if it springs back, it’s baked, if the dough sinks in – it’s not done baking yet!

And since these have cream cheese in them, I recommend refrigerating them in a covered container after they’ve cooled, and reheating on defrost in the microwave before serving.  You can also freeze these in a gallon zip bag for up to 3 weeks.  Reheat in the microwave on defrost as well.