Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes

Celebrate fall with these luscious cupcakes filled with caramel, pecan, and cream cheese. Adding a drizzle of caramel and an elegant caramel rose will create a perfect dessert for the upcoming holidays.

The cupcakes are delicious, but let’s not pretend that they’re the focus here. It’s the rose. It’s all about the rose!

Believe it or not, the roses are very simple to make. All you’ll need is a bag of caramels, a sturdy rolling pin, a small round cutter, and parchment paper. I was blown away by how easy it was to work with caramels. They aren’t sticky, they don’t dry out when you’re playing with them, and they stretch and curl obligingly when you want them to. They stay pliable and . . . well . . . edible, unlike gum paste or candy clay.

And the cake itself is very basic. If your inclination is to reach for a boxed mix, I understand. But if you’d like to try your hand at making a cake from scratch, this would be the recipe to use. You’d have to add eggs, butter, and water to the mix; why not add just a few more ingredients, make the cake from scratch, and avoid the additives that are in packaged mixes?

Compare!

I think the hardest thing about this recipe is unwrapping the caramels, but if I can do it YOU can do it! Speaking of caramels, do you remember when Kraft had chocolate caramels, too? They’re back. Hard to find, but I just ordered some online. I’ll bet they’d make lovely roses too.

An 11-ounce bag will give you about 40 caramels. You’ll use 22 for the roses, and the remaining 18 for the filling. (Good grief, don’t sweat it if you’re short a caramel or two. You have to check to make sure they’re fresh, right?)

So, you’ll start out with the filling, then make the cake batter. You can create the roses while the cupcakes are baking, and make the frosting once they have cooled. And you know the drill: boxed cake, canned frosting, leave out the filling . . . anything goes. Simple chocolate cupcakes with fudge icing would look great with the roses too. Just make sure you make the roses!

First, the cupcake recipe:

Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 18 cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 20 unwrapped caramels
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (toasted for the best flavor)
  • CAKE:
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ cups cake flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • Buttercream icing (or icing of your choice)
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the caramels and cream, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolk and beat well.
  3. Once the caramel is lukewarm but still fluid, add to cream cheese mixture. Beat well. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside.
  4. Heat oven to 350 F. Place 18 paper liners in cupcake pans.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least 2 minutes.
  6. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
  7. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  8. Add half of the flour mixture the butter mixture. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the milk. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat.
  9. Fill cupcake liners halfway. Don't add too much; you need to leave room for filling. If you have extra batter, make another cupcake or two.
  10. Using a tablespoon, place a scant spoonful of filling in each cup, using the spoon to make a small depression in the batter before scooping the filling into the center. The filling will still show on top, but this will help some of it to sink into the cupcake.
  11. Bake for approximately 24 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Test with a toothpick, making sure to insert on the side of the cupcake, away from the gooey center.
  12. Cool thoroughly before icing and decorating.

Just follow the instructions; you can’t go wrong!

I’m going to cut right to the caramel rose directions.

  1. Use a large piping tip, or a cap from a bottle of water or a milk carton—whatever you can find that’s round and approximately 1 inch across—to cut out the caramel circles.
  2. I found that working with one caramel at a time is easiest. Place it between sheets of parchment and roll out thin. You should be able to cut 4 circles out of it with a reasonable amount of leftover scraps. (Pile them up and roll them out later.)
  3. In the picture below, the pieces of caramel in the background are round. That’s because I put each one in a tortilla press. It made it a little easier to roll out that way but isn’t necessary at all. And I’m still scratching my head about the fact that I put a square caramel in the press (between sheets of parchment) and it flattened the caramel into a perfect circle. WTH?
  4. Cut one circle at a time and pop it out of the cutter. If you let them stack up in there, they’re a real bear to separate. I know this for a fact! This would be a fun activity for kids to do and allow you to go right to the fun part of forming roses. It takes 9 rounds to make a rose.
  5. Set your finished roses on the counter (uncovered) or in a mini-tart pan for a little more support. If the rose flattens, just fluff it back out.

Cut out 1-inch circles. (The rounds in the background still need to be rolled out.)

Roll one circle to make the center. Overlap 3 petals around the center. Overlap 5 petals for the outside layer, pulling edges thin and curling down if desired. Petals can be shaped and enlarged before wrapping or after, whichever is easiest. (If you want to have enough caramel for a few leaves, you can cut some of that stem off and add it to the scraps.)

They’re your roses; make them 7 petals instead of 9 if you want. Play with the shapes of the petals. Make some big ones, some small. Play with your food! If you have any leftover caramel, a few leaves make the cupcake even prettier.

Use your favorite icing. I made a basic buttercream for this batch.

I had so much fun making these, and I’ll bet you will too. The roses would be perfect on individual brownies, too. Or chocolate cookies. Or . . . well, I’ll leave something to your imagination.

Lorinda

 

Four-Cheese Zucchini Puffs

If you grow zucchini or know anyone who does, chances are you have a few hanging around in your fridge, or you stashed bags of grated zucchini in your freezer. Or maybe you’ll want to put your coat on and run to the store right now because this is now my official, absolute, no-holds-barred favorite zucchini recipe!

Granted, the flaky pastry might have something to do with my passion for these little puffs (you could probably fill them with cat food and I’d still love them), but the cheesy zucchini filling was so savory and delectable that I was hooked with one bite. 

I considered adding ham, onions, olives, or chopped chicken breast—all of which I think would be delicious, but in this case, I wanted to appreciate the pastries in their simplest form. And I appreciated them a lot. A whole lot.

Rough puff pastry is so easy. It really is! It takes a little time because you chill it several times between the rolling/folding action, but making the dough is simple. You dump flour and salt on a work surface, chop cold butter into it, fold in cold water, and then roll and fold . . . many times. See? Easy and fun!

I make mine the day before because I think it has more flavor that way. Take it out of the fridge to soften 30 minutes before you plan to make the puffs.

Yes, yes, I’m using that potsticker press again. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of that little gadget. If you don’t have one, you can do it the old-fashioned way, with a fork.

And I do want to mention that a few of these will—in spite of your valiant efforts with egg white and potsticker press—ooze. What a horrid word. I tried to find a more appealing description but failed. It’s cheese; it oozes! But you know what? That crispy blob of cheese on the baking sheet is the best part as far as I’m concerned. 

 

Four-Cheese Zucchini Puffs
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Makes 20-24 For best results, make the dough several hours before you plan to serve. The day before is even better!
Ingredients
  • PASTRY:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt (add ¼ t additional salt if using unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) COLD butter
  • ⅔ cup very cold water
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, firmly packed (about 1 small zucchini)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded fresh parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces mozzarella (the soft, fresh kind if possible)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon herbs de Provence (or herbs of choice)
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (I used Panko, but any kind will do.)
  • ASSEMBLY:
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Instructions
  1. PASTRY:
  2. Place flour on work surface. Mix in the salt.
  3. Cut cold butter into small cubes - about ½ inch square. Chop into flour mixture using a long spatula, knife, or bench scraper. Don't overwork the mixture - you should see chunks of butter larger than a pea.
  4. Drizzle cold water over flour and butter with one hand while tossing with a spatula in the other hand. Use the spatula to scrape the messy dough into a rectangle about 5" x 8", with the short edge facing you. Lightly flour the work surface as needed.
  5. Using a rolling pin, press and gently roll until dough is approximately 7" x 10". It will be very crumbly. Don't panic, it will come together! Use a spatula or bench scraper to lift the bottom of the dough so that the bottom edge is two-thirds of the way up. Lift and fold the top down until the top edge is at the bottom. The dough has just been folded into three equal layers. Give it a turn to the left. Repeat three more times. By the last roll and fold, it should look like dough.
  6. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove dough from refrigerator and repeat the roll/fold/fold/turn procedure three times. Return to refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  8. Again, remove dough from refrigerator and repeat the roll/fold/fold/turn procedure three times. Return to refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. (If dough has been chilled for more than 1 hour, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before making puffs.)
  9. NOTE: While the dough is chilling you can make the filling and refrigerate it until needed.
  10. FILLING:
  11. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add grated zucchini and cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute, or until softened. Remove from heat.
  12. Add the cheeses. Stir well. If cheese isn't melted, you can heat it on low or simply knead the mixture together. Stir in the seasonings and breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  13. ASSEMBLY:
  14. Heat oven to 400 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment
  15. With the short end of the dough facing you, and the open edge of dough on the right (like a book), cut across the middle, creating two squares. Working with one at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a long rectangle, 9" x 21".
  16. Using a 4-inch cutter, cut 10 circles. Stack scraps flat in a pile and set aside. Place one circle at a time in potsticker press (or leave flat on work surface if using a fork to seal the puffs) and brush a little egg white around the edge. Put 2 level teaspoons of filling in the center and press firmly to close, or use a fork to seal.
  17. Place at least 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg white (a paper towel dipped in the egg white works well) and poke the top of the puff once with a fork.
  18. Repeat with remaining dough. Roll all of the scraps at once. Cut as many circles as possible and discard the remaining dough. (Or just pile loosely on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar before baking!)
  19. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until puffs are a light golden brown. Move to a cooling rack. Best eaten warm.

Chop the butter into the flour. (That’s Irish butter – so yellow!!)

Drizzle with one hand and toss with the other.

Corral it into a rectangle and roll it out. I know it’s a mess; just keep rolling!

The first “fold”. Make an attempt to lift the bottom edge up two-thirds of the way.

And then fold the top down over the bottom to create three equal layers. Ugly shaggy layers. It’ll get better, I promise.

Repeat three times and you’ll end up with dough! See the small butter pockets? That’s okay. They’ll blend in eventually. Chill for 30 minutes, then repeat and repeat. The rolling and folding just take a few quick minutes.

Grate the zucchini

Saute briefly in olive oil

Add the cheese.

Add breadcrumbs and seasoning. Stir.

Work with half at a time.

Roll out thin and cut 4-inch circles

Brush edge of rounds with egg white and put filling in the center. Press firmly, using a potsticker press. (Or you can fold it and use a fork.)

Brush with egg white and poke a fork in the top, then bake

Scraps should be stacked flat and rolled all at once. (One time only.)

I used lots of pictures and probably too many words; making these melt-in-your-mouth treasures is a lot easier than it appears. Remember that if you’re making these for a party or guests, the dough can be made several days ahead of time, making the assembly go very quickly.

I may be adding a couple more zucchini plants to my garden next year. You might want to grow a few too!

Enjoy.

Lorinda

Garlic Frittelle (Italian Dinner Doughnuts)

Dinner doughnuts! That’s what my husband dubbed these after one blissful bite. This simple fried bread has a garlic butter and parmesan center that is flavorful but not overwhelming. It soaks into the bread a bit as it fries so you aren’t faced with butter dripping down your chin. (Never a good thing.)

I’m all about texture, preferring my bread crispy and crackly, but the chewy crust on these puffy rolls was delightful, contrasting nicely with the soft, buttery bread inside. I considered adding chopped pepperoni to the filling, but . . . well . . . I didn’t have any. Garlic, however, is something I have lots and lots of, so I made the most of it. Next time I may try the pepperoni, or maybe some sun-dried tomatoes.

Sorting garlic.

I’m not going to lie to you here; these are probably not on anyone’s diet. That’s all I’m going to say about that!

I use a potsticker press because it seals the dough nicely and makes it easy to work with. Keep it lightly floured for best results. (You can buy these online for just a few dollars, and they come in hand for all kinds of recipes.) If you don’t have one, just fold the circle over on the filling and press the edge firmly with a fork. Looks really don’t matter, because they’re just going to puff up into potato-like shapes. Who cares, when they taste the way they do?

Once fried you can leave them as they are, or you can brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with coarse salt and a little cheese. I waited too long to do this and my cheese wasn’t very cooperative, defiantly refusing to melt. A few seconds under the broiler took care of that. Hah!

In my usual “go big or go home” approach, this recipe makes a whopping 24 rolls. The recipe can easily be cut in half, or you can freeze some for another time. (I vote for just eating them hand over fist.) Besides, if you’re going to go to the trouble to deep fry, you might as well go for the gusto.

They’re also good the next day, especially if you warm them up a little.

Garlic Frittelle (Italian Dinner Doughnuts)
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Ingredients
  • Filling:
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened (if using unsalted, add an additional ¼ t.salt)
  • 1 generous tablespoon (3-4 cloves) garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese (more to taste)
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Bread:
  • 2½ cups very warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 5 cups bread flour (more for dusting work surface)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • oil for frying (I use peanut oil, but canola or safflower are also good options.)
  • melted butter and grated cheese if desired to top hot rolls
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook is best) combine water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over it and let it sit for 5 minutes. (It won't foam a lot, but as long as your yeast is fresh, it will do its job.)
  3. Add flour and beat until well-combined.
  4. Add olive oil. Continue to knead by machine for 5 minutes, or drop dough onto floured surface and knead by hand for 7-8 minutes. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
  5. Cover and allow the bread to rise for 1 hour.
  6. Working with half the dough at a time, roll it out on a floured board ¼-inch thick. Cut with a large round cutter - about 3½ inches across. Place 1 generous teaspoon of garlic mixture on each round of dough and press in half, using a lightly floured potsticker press (or fold the dough over the mixture and press firmly around the edge with a fork).
  7. Heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 F. Fry a few at a time, turning once, until rich golden brown - just a few minutes. Place between sheets of paper towel to absorb extra oil.
  8. Brush hot rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt and shredded cheese if desired.

Add oil and knead.

Dough will be soft and slightly sticky but should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

Roll and cut

Place dough and filling in the press. (Or just fold over, if you don’t have a press.)

Press gently. The dough is soft and will stick together.

Fry, baby. Fry!

They may LOOK like potatoes, but trust me – inside that chewy crust is soft, pillowy bread and a pop of garlic goodness.

Precious little fat bombs, how I love you! Hey, garlic’s healthy, right? Serve them with a huge salad and call it good, folks.

Lorinda

 

Strawberry Daiquiri Cheesecake Cones

It’s August and I’m fighting triple-digit weather with something sweet, frozen, and slightly boozy. I needed this! These sugar cones are filled with an indulgent combination of cream cheese, strawberries, whipping cream, and rum . . . and sugar, of course. I call them “Cheesecake Cones” even though I know it’s not really cheesecake; this is more like a cream cheese fruit fluff. Whatever it is, it’s good—and though the chocolate shell coating might melt in the heat, the rest of it won’t drip down your arm like ice cream. 

 

See? This cone sat patiently through a photo shoot but never got drippy. I’d also like to go on record here: I am very casual about a lot of things, but I have a problem with food photos where someone has actually taken a bite out of the item. I don’t know why, but that kinda grosses me out. But . . . I tried breaking through the shell with a spoon and it just made a huge mess, so under the circumstances, I made an exception. I bit into this baby, and I’m not one bit sorry. Yum!

Yes, they take a little time to make—but mostly because they go in and out of the freezer a few times, which hopefully won’t be a deal-breaker for you. The only freezer I have with any space in it is out in the back of the garage, so I had to run back and forth (did I mention it’s hot as Hades out there?) but it was totally worth it, because now I have a stash of cones out there just waiting for the next craving to hit. Three, two, one . . .

Oh, and if you’re going to freeze them for very long, I found that small disposable pastry bags were perfect to protect each cone from freezer burn.

Small pastry bags are perfect for storage! Just add a twist-tie.

 

This recipe will make twelve smallish sugar cones. If you buy the big hurkin’ ones, it will probably make nine or so. But honestly, even with my raging sweet tooth, the small ones are just right.

I bought a cone stand (I know, I know) but you can easily make one by cutting holes or starbursts into a deep, sturdy box—like this:

Make your own cone holder.

Use dark chocolate or white chocolate (both are deeeeelicious). The cone will also be coated inside with whichever flavor you choose, to keep the cone from getting soggy if you don’t eat them straight out of the freezer.

For the picture at the top of the post, I used Green & Black’s white chocolate which has vanilla in it, giving it a more caramel color. For a lighter color, I tried Ghiradelli (using a 4-ounce baking bar and 4 ounces of Ghiradelli melts) which was pretty and very tasty. If you want the coating to be bright white, try Wilton candy melts.

The Ghiradelli bar is lighter colored, but the Green & Black’s? Scrumptious!

I used white rum. It was pretty subtle (there’s only so much you can add without compromising the texture), so if you want a lot of rum flavor, use dark rum or add a few drops of rum extract. AND, if you’re making these for the kids, just skip the rum entirely, and maybe add a mashed banana. Yum!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cones
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Makes 12 cones
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups chopped fresh strawberries (about 12 oz)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup rum
  • 1 packet (7g) Knox gelatin
  • 12 sugar cones
  • 8 ounces chocolate - white or dark
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • sprinkles, if desired
Instructions
  1. For best results, use a cone stand. You can make one by cutting holes in a deep, sturdy box.
  2. Place chopped berries, sugar, and rum in a small bowl. Cover and let it sit for 1 hour. Strain, mashing berries gently against the sieve. Save the liquid! Blot the berries thoroughly between paper towels.
  3. Measure ¼ cup of the berry juice into a small cup. Sprinkle with gelatin and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Transfer gelatin to a small pot and whisk on low heat until mixture is fairly clear. Slowly whisk in ½ cup of berry juice. Stir until warm and all gelatin is dissolved. (Discard remaining juice or use it in a cocktail!) Add the berries and let the gelatin mixture cool and thicken. To speed this up you can put the pan in cold water bath. If you refrigerate it, watch closely; you want it thick, but not set like Jello.
  4. In a small pot or microwave-safe bowl, slowly melt chocolate and coconut oil together. Use the lowest heat and stir often if melting on the stove, or at 15-second increments in the microwave. Stir well!
  5. Drop 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate mixture into each cone. Use a pastry brush or gloved finger to spread evenly inside the cones. Place upright in refrigerator or freezer to harden. Set remaining chocolate mixture aside.
  6. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Stir in the thickened berry mixture.
  7. In a small bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold gently but thoroughly into the cream cheese mixture.
  8. Fill each cone level with the top. Place cones in the freezer. Put the remaining filling in the refrigerator to firm up (at least 1 hour).
  9. Remove cones from the freezer and put a scoop of berry mixture onto each, using a knife if necessary to smooth it down to touch the top of the cone. Return to freezer for an additional hour. (Longer is fine.)
  10. Place chocolate mixture in a large mug or small, deep bowl. (If chocolate has hardened, warm gently, stirring often.) Dip each cone, allowing excess to drip back into bowl before turning upright. Quickly add sprinkles if desired.
  11. Freeze until ready to serve. Each cone may be individually wrapped. Small disposable pastry bags work well for this!

Combine chopped strawberries, sugar, and rum. (I used superfine sugar but regular is okay.)

Strain the berries. Keep that juice!

Blot thoroughly

Sprinkle gelatin on 1/4 cup of the strawberry juice

Whisk the bloomed gelatin over low heat

Whisk in 1/2 cup strawberry/rum juice and heat gently. If you have any leftover juice, make a cocktail! (Hint: add to a glass of Prosecco.)

Add berries. Allow mixture to cool and thicken.

Coat the inside with chocolate of your choice. A brush works well. A finger works better (yes, yes, wear a glove if you insist). Chill or freeze.

Coated in white chocolate and ready to fill

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar. Stir in the thickened berry mixture.

Whip the cream until very stiff peaks form. (Stop short of making butter!) Fold into cream cheese mixture.

Fill the cones JUST to the top. Freeze while the remaining mixture thickens in the fridge

After chilling, scoop onto the cones. Freeze AGAIN. At least 1 hour; more is better.

Dip and sprinkle

Or go with dark chocolate!

 

I’ve made five batches of these now. Gave away a bunch, and have some stored in the freezer. I may also have some hidden in a broccoli bag in the freezer for security reasons. Shhhh.

Lorinda

Grain-Free Nut and Seed Energy Bars

There’s no gluten, dairy, or processed sugar in these energy bars. In fact, no grain at all. My son spends a lot of time in the woods and wanted me to come up with something that could withstand being tossed in a backpack, but he didn’t want any sweetener or grains. (I know. I think he was a changeling, I really do.) I lobbied for a small amount of honey to make the bars sturdier but kept it to a minimum. And do you know what? These are good! Really good. The chia and honey work together to glue all the yummy nuts and seeds together. I also added some dried cranberries and blueberries.

For my first attempt, I used a three-seed mix of chia, hemp, and flax. There wasn’t enough chia to hold it all together well, so I tried again, added more chia, and got it right.

Baking times may vary a little, depending on how thin you spread the mixture, and on your oven. My oven doesn’t hold heat once it’s turned off. It has a fan that blows the heat out, which is a little annoying when I try to make meringues or crackers (things that I want to dry out slowly). So you may have to play with the timing a bit. I also wanted these pretty dry and crunchy; you can give them a shorter bake time if you want them softer.

You’ll probably want to hit a natural-foods market for ingredients. The recipe uses quite a variety, and you can usually buy small amounts in bulk there. Of course, once you’ve tried these you may go back for larger quantities.

Nuts, seeds, fruit, and honey

Grain-Free Nut and Seed Energy Bars
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Makes 20 large bars
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup flax seed (or flax/hemp combination)
  • 4 cups chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, almonds)
  • ½ cup dried fruit (I used cranberries and blueberries)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F. Cover a large baking sheet with an 11½ x 16" Silpat (or parchment)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the water and honey.
  3. Add seeds and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. It should get thick.
  4. Add nuts and fruit and stir well.
  5. Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet, It will tend to get thicker in the middle, so try to smooth it out so the edges are the same thickness.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Flip the bars over. (Either place another silpat and a baking sheet on top and flip the whole thing over, then cut into desired sizes - or cut into bars and flip each one over. Return to oven.
  7. Reduce heat to 250 F. and bake for an additional hour. Without opening the door, turn off the oven and let the bars sit until cool. (They should be firm. If not, you can bake for additional time at 250 F.)

Stir seeds into water and honey. Let them thicken up!

Add nuts and fruit and stir well

Spread evenly onto silpat or parchment

You may want to have another baking sheet ready. After it’s baked for 30 minutes, it needs to be flipped over. You can place another baking sheet on top and flip (then cut bars and put it back in the oven) or cut bars and flip each one over before returning to the oven. Whichever seems easiest to you. I’m a “flip the whole mess over at once” kinda gal.

See? Wasn’t that easy? Now you can have a healthy snack whenever you need a pick-me-up. Put this on your calendar, because you won’t see something like this on my blog very often.

 

 

Two-bite Huckleberry Cheesecakes

Sweet and tangy, these cute little mini-cheesecakes are perfect for a summer party. Serve them frozen on a hot day and watch them disappear!

Huckleberries are ripe right now, and I’m in heaven. There’s just nothing to compare to these flavorful berries. There is, however, an almost-as-good option if you don’t have access to huckleberries. Wild Maine blueberries are very similar. I bought frozen wild blueberries at the grocery store and they were delicious and reasonable. With fresh huckleberries going for $50-60 a gallon here, if I couldn’t pick them myself, I’d go for the frozen option!

Loaded with cream cheese, sour cream, and whipped topping, you’d think these little cheesecakes would be crazy-rich, but they truly aren’t. The combination of textures and the addition of lemon to the berry topping helps to confuse you into thinking you can eat twenty of these. I should know.

This may look sweet and innocent, but it will actually lure you into “just one more”.

And speaking of whipped topping, I really don’t like to use it. I much prefer real whipped cream. But I tried this with whipping cream, and the little bites were softer . . . pretty messy if you didn’t eat them the second they came out of the freezer. So I caved. I have one more cream cheese recipe coming up soon (it’s a doozy!) and I promise to use the real stuff in that one.

Have you ever used agar-agar? The berry topping can be thickened using cornstarch or agar-agar. I tried both and liked the agar-agar version slightly better. The topping reminded me a little bit of cranberry sauce (kind of gelatinous) while the cornstarch topping was more jam-like, but both were very tasty. The recipe below will call for cornstarch because it’s what most people have in their cupboard, but if you’d like to use agar-agar powder, simply add the lemon juice and water to the cooked berries and then whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons of agar-agar powder. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Top the cheesecakes while the mixture is still warm because it will set up quickly once it cools. If it gets too thick at any point, gently reheat it.

Two-bite Huckleberry Cheesecakes
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Makes 48 mini-cheesecakes.
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 double crackers) finely crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • BERRY TOPPING:
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2½ cups fresh huckleberries (or use fresh or frozen wild Maine blueberries)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • FILLING:
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup white chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 8-oz tub thawed whipped topping, divided
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F. Prepare the mini tart pans by placing a small paper liner in each cavity. (48 liners in all.)
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Divide between the 48 liners - about 1 teaspoon in each. Tamp down well with a shot glass or tart tamper. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
  3. In a small cup, whisk together the water, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Set aside.
  4. In a medium pot, stir together the berries and sugar. Heat on medium-low until mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for 3 minutes.
  5. Using a slotted spoon (letting the liquid drip back into the pan) scoop 2 tablespoons of berries into a small dish and set aside.
  6. Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into bubbling berry mixture and continue to cook at a low boil until thick - about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. In a small pan on low heat (or in the microwave), gently heat 1 tablespoon heavy cream and white chocolate until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  8. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese well. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  9. Add sour cream, melted white chocolate, and 2 tablespoons reserved cooked berries. Mix until combined.
  10. Fold in 2 cups of whipped topping, reserving the remaining cup for decorating.
  11. Fill each liner about ¾ full, leaving a little room for the berry topping. You can spoon the filling into the liners or use a pastry bag or heavy plastic bag with the tip cut off to squeeze it in.
  12. Check the berry topping to make sure it isn't hot. Warm is fine. Spoon over the filling in each liner.
  13. Freeze until ready to serve. Top with whipped topping and a berry, if desired.

Tamp down the crust and bake. If you don’t have a tart tamper, use a shot glass!

I use a pastry bag to fill them. Leave room for topping!

Add the berry topping and freeze

So if you live on the east or west coast, get a can of bear spray and head for the hills to harvest huckleberries or wild blueberries. If you’re stuck elsewhere, look in the freezer section of any large grocery store. Our health food section has a separate freezer section, and they have organic wild Maine blueberries. Score!

Before I post my last (for now) cheesecake recipe, I’ve actually been working on a healthy treat. Yes, yes, you heard that right. Check back in soon . . . or better yet, subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss this rare occurrence!

Lorinda

No Bake Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

Each summer when our grandkids are visiting, we make a festive dessert. Oh, there’s always lots of chopping, cooking, and baking going on during that week, but we like to create one special sweet treat. This year we made a no-bake raspberry cheesecake for the 4th of July. Well . . . we baked the crust, but that’s all. We intended to add some blueberries to make it red, white, and blue, but we forgot. (It gets a little crazy around here with so many people in the kitchen.)

There are three steps to this dessert: topping, crust, and filling. It really won’t take that long, and if my grandkids can make this without whining, you can too!

 

Of course, I winged it and didn’t write down exact measurements. We were in a hurry (great-grandma was coming to visit) and slam-dunked it. You probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I just guessed my way through the recipe, so now that the kids have gone back to California (sob) it was carefully re-created and documented . . .  and it turned out beautifully. I added lemon zest to the cheesecake the second time around and loved the subtle flavor.

And I even cleaned up as I went! Mark that down on your calendar, because it will probably never happen again. Who knows what possessed me – but it’s awfully nice to sit here working on this blog without seeing a mess out of the corner of my eye. I understand that some people actually do this regularly. Huh. Go figure.

Do you know what I really, really miss? Raspberry ripple ice cream. Just can’t find it anywhere. This immediately reminded me of that childhood treat . . . sweet nostalgia!

If you don’t have a springform pan, you can always make a couple of deep dish pies instead, using the same steps.

No Bake Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
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Author:
You will need a 9-inch springform pan for this recipe. (It could also be made in two deep-dish pie pans.) Plan ahead; this cheesecake is best if it's refrigerated overnight.
Ingredients
  • BERRY TOPPING:
  • 18 ounces fresh raspberries (about 3 cups, plus a few for decorating)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 1½ sleeves)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 ounces white chocolate (chips or candy melts are fine)
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 1 8-ounce tub of whipped topping, thawed
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and place a round of parchment on the bottom.
  2. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir well and set aside.
  3. If desired, remove and refrigerate 9 of the nicest berries to use later for decorating. In a medium pan on medium heat, bring the remaining berries, sugar, and salt to a boil. Cook at a low boil for 3 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Cook and stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan evenly, going halfway up the sides of the pan. (A straight-sided measuring cup works well for pressing crust up the sides.)
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.
  7. In a small pan on very low heat (or in a microwave at 15-second intervals) combine the cream and white chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
  8. In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
  9. Add the powdered sugar and beat well.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon zest, and white chocolate mixture. Beat well.
  11. By hand, stir in the whipped topping, just until incorporated.
  12. Put half of the filling in the pie crust, spreading it to the sides. Don't smooth it; hills and valleys will make the raspberry swirl look prettier.
  13. Check the raspberry mixture. Warm is fine, but if it's still hot, place the pan in a larger pan of cold water and stir. Drizzle ⅓ cup of the raspberry mixture over the filling in the pan. Cover with remaining filling and swirl gently, avoiding the crust.
  14. Smooth the top, making it as level as possible. Pour the remaining raspberry topping over the cheesecake, cover with foil, and chill overnight.
  15. If desired, decorate with whipped cream rosettes and the reserved raspberries.

Add sugar and a pinch of salt to rinsed raspberries and boil gently for 3 minutes

Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, and water

Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling berries. Stir until thickened.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.

Press into prepared pan and bake

Melt together the cream and white chocolate. Let it cool a little.

Add powdered sugar to whipped cream cheese

Add lemon and melted chocolate to the mixture

Stir in the whipped topping

Add half of the filling (don’t level it . . . leave it “gloppy”) and drizzle with 1/3 cup berry mixture

Cover with remaining filling

Swirl gently. (You don’t want to disturb that crust!)

Level the top (a small offset spatula works well) all the way to the edge. Add remaining berry mixture and smooth with a clean spatula.

Decorate with whipped cream and raspberries, or let it go au naturel.

It doesn’t really NEED adornment. I like mine straight.

 

In case you’re wondering, this is delicious when frozen, too! Trust me, I know. And it’s easier to cut and serve. Just take it from the freezer and let it sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

I Like Big Buns (and I can not lie)

If you’re feeding a crowd and want an easy way to serve burgers, here’s a great recipe for you! Two huge burgers, sliced like a pie, will yield twelve portions. The buns can be made a day or two ahead (or you can get them done really early and freeze them) so all you’ll need to do is cook those mammoth burgers and slice some veggies. Sweet, huh? You could even cook the burgers ahead and freeze them too; they’d be easy to warm up in the oven.

The Man thought this one up, of course. He’s the burger fan around here. Of course, he thought that each should be sliced into four pieces, not six, but he lost that battle. You know what’s really neat about this idea? The pieces are much easier to eat than a regular burger.

My apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot for messing with his lyrics. Since we went to the same high school (he was a few years behind me) I know he’d be okay with this. (Okay, okay. Eight years. He’s eight years younger. Are you happy now? Sheesh.) Go, Roughriders!

I used a 10-inch cast iron round griddle for one of the buns and an 11-inch tart pan for the other. Cake pans would work fine too, but I wanted something with low sides so the buns would brown all the way down. Both worked like a charm. In a pinch, just lay your round dough on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

I Like Big Buns (and I Cannot Lie)
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Author:
Makes 2 huge hamburger buns.
Ingredients
  • 4 - 4½ cups bread flour
  • 1 package (about 2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup oil (I used peanut oil, but any mild-flavored cooking oil will work)
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cornmeal (optional)
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease two 10-11 inch round pans. Sprinkle with cornmeal if desired. (You may also use parchment instead of the grease.)
  2. Put 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. (A sturdy stand mixer with a paddle attachment is best.)
  3. In a small pot, heat the water, milk, sugar, and oil until very warm - 120-130 degrees. Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture, add one egg and one yolk (reserve the egg white for later) and beat until smooth.
  4. Switch to a dough hook and add remaining flour until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 7 minutes.
  5. Place dough on floured surface, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Divide dough into two equal parts. Working with one at a time, flatten with your hand, then roll out into a 9-inch circle. Place in prepared pan and pat firmly to make sure it's evenly thick. Press around the outside edge to make it slope down to the pan (creating more of a dome shape).
  7. Cover with a towel and let the buns rise for 45 minutes. They won't double in size but will be puffy.
  8. Heat oven to 400 F.
  9. Add 1 teaspoon water to the egg white and whisk until foamy. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake buns for 15 minutes, or until the tops are rich, golden brown. Remove from oven and place pans on cooling racks for 5-10 minutes. Lift buns onto racks to continue cooling.
  11. Slice in half horizontally and fill as desired. (Note: if using the same size pans to cook burgers, use extra-lean meat to avoid shrinkage.)

Here’s what you’ll need for the buns.

The liquids need to be very warm (120-130 F). I don’t have a microwave, but you can use one instead of the stove!

Add liquids and eggs to flour mixture

Let dough rest, then roll into 9-inch circle and press onto greased pan

Let it rise and then brush lightly with egg whites

Sprinkle with sesame seeds

This one was done in a tart pan. (Recipe makes 2 buns.)

Press extra-lean meat firmly into pan. If using lean burger, make it in a bigger pan. (It’ll shrink. Ask me how I know.)

 

Top the bottom bun with a burger patty and whatever you like on your burgers. I used cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mayo, and mustard.

SOMEone was very, very happy.

This is a very simple bread recipe and would be perfect for the 4th of July, barbecues, or football games. I might even make this again for Father’s Day and let The Man have one all to himself.

Grab a bib and dig in!

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

Patriotic Meringue Puffs

Well, these are addictive little devils! Sweet little sugar puffs that melt in your mouth, all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop at one.

I did something out of character and took the easy route with these treats. I’ve made meringues many times using egg whites, but I tried using Wilton’s meringue powder and it worked beautifully.

If you’re fresh out of meringue powder, I’d advise a trip to the store – pronto. And get some superfine sugar while you’re there. You don’t HAVE to use it, but it dissolves into the liquid a lot faster and I highly recommend it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Meringue Powder
  • Superfine sugar (aka: Baker’s sugar)
  • large pastry bag
  • large star tip
  • red and blue paste food coloring (or gel, if it’s thick)
  • Two paintbrushes
  • Parchment

I tried using my gel coloring but it didn’t stick to the bag at all. Maybe because it’s “squeezable” gel, so it’s thinner. Paste coloring worked fine.

This is seriously so easy. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is get the stripes of color inside the pastry bag. I’ll give you some pointers, but the important thing to remember is that even if your stripes are wonky, the meringues will still look great.

Patriotic Meringue Puffs
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Author:
Makes about 30 meringues (1½ inch) or hundreds of little bitty ones.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder (I use Wiltons)
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • a few drops of flavoring if desired (use clear colors: lemon, peppermint, cinnamon are all good.)
  • red and blue paste food coloring
Instructions
  1. PREPARATION: Drop large star tip into the pastry bag. Fold down the top third of the bag (making a cuff) and paint alternating stripes of red and blue up the inside of the bag, starting at the base of the star tip and working up. Don't make them too thick or too close together, or you'll end up with purple! (I used 3 stripes of each color.) Set bag aside.
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
  3. MERINGUES: For best results, use a stand mixer (or a sturdy hand mixer and medium-sized bowl.) Heat oven to 250 F.
  4. Beat together the water and meringue powder until foamy.
  5. Add sugar very gradually, sprinkling it in a little at a time, scraping bowl occasionally.
  6. Beat until thick and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. Add flavoring if using and beat until incorporated.
  7. Place the prepared pastry bag inside a tall water glass. Carefully drop meringue into bag. Don't try to spread it, just drop it in there. Unfold the cuff of the bag and twist to close.
  8. Pipe meringues on prepared pan. Squeeze near the pan and pull up slowly, releasing pressure as you go. Aim for about 1½ inches at the base. The first few won't be very colorful, but they're still pretty. They won't spread and can be fairly close together. Small stars can be piped for decorations, but pipe them on a separate sheet; they'll take less time to bake.
  9. Bake large puffs for 25 minutes, (10 minutes for the tiny stars), then turn off oven (don't open the door!) and leave them for a couple of hours. If you have an oven that vents heat out when it's turned off, at the end of the bake time turn the heat down as low as it will go and let them bake for another 10 minutes before turning oven off.
  10. Store the meringues in an airtight container.

Slooooowly add sugar to water and meringue powder. Beat until very thick and shiny.

I place the cuff over my hand and very (very) carefully paint the lines. I was pretty generous here and had some vibrant colors. I used less on the second batch and they were still bright and pretty.

Here’s what it looks like before the meringue is added.

Place bag in glass for support. Carefully drop the meringue into the bag.

Piping the puffs

Tips:

  • Take your time when adding the sugar. Give it time to dissolve.
  • If you want to make the tiny stars (great for decorating cupcakes) hold the tip a little bit above the parchment and start squeezing as you push down and touch the sheet. Stop squeezing and pull up. You’ll get the hang of it!
  • To make both sizes, put the large puffs in the oven first. Let them bake for 15 minutes, then put the other sheet in too. Continue to bake for the remaining 10 minutes then turn off the oven without opening the door. Don’t peek – leave them to dry out for a couple of hours (or overnight). If you have an oven that vents the heat once it’s turned off, see the recipe for instructions.
  • Put a dot of meringue batter on the baking sheet under the parchment to hold it in place while piping.
  • If you want a little more white and a little less color in your meringues, just make 4 stripes instead of 6 inside the pastry bag.
  • Keep them dry, cool, and dark. In theory, they’ll last 2 weeks. I don’t think they’ll have that opportunity!

Here is the mini version:

Piped and ready for the oven.

Jazz up strawberry shortcake, cookies, cupcakes, or a bowl of ice cream. Or just pop them—one after another—in your mouth.

Have a sweet and safe 4th!

Lorinda

Crustless Company Quiche

Layers of hash browns, bacon, sweet onions, cheese, ham, and eggs create a breakfast dish that you’d be proud to serve to company . . . or just scarf down yourself. My goal was to make this delicious dish while producing a minimum amount of pans to wash, and I was pretty pleased with the way it all worked out.

My inspiration was a fantastic recipe by Cydnee of Tampa Cake Girl. Her “Quiche Me Baby One More Time” was so appealing, and also low-carb, which was a win-win situation in my book.

But my husband wanted hash browns. And I didn’t have Swiss cheese. Or heavy cream. Besides, I think I have some kind of genetic disorder that doesn’t let me follow a recipe exactly as it’s written. I.Just.Can’t. I have to fiddle and improvise, no matter how perfect the original version is.

So, my apologies to Cydnee for messing with her recipe, but here’s my version. Now you can choose between low-carb and almost low carb. (Aw, c’mon, it’s just one potato.)

Crustless Company Quiche
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Author:
Serves 8 polite people, 6 hungry people.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups shredded potato (or packaged hash browns)
  • 3 pieces bacon, uncooked, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1½ cups grated cheese (I used cheddar and parmesan, but Swiss or jack are good, too)
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • ½ cup whipped cream cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • garlic salt (or regular salt) and pepper to taste. A pinch of nutmeg is good, too.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray a deep pie pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread shredded potato in the bottom of the pan and top with uncooked bacon pieces.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped onions, then cheese. Top with chopped ham.
  5. Combine cream cheese, eggs, and milk. Beat well, add seasonings, and pour over the top.
  6. Place dish on baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  7. Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Layer the uncooked bacon on the shredded potatoes (the bacon grease will help cook the potatoes) and bake for 30 minutes.

Chop onions and grate cheese.

Add onions to cooked potatoes and bacon

Combine the cream cheese, eggs, and milk. Add seasonings.

Beat well.

Add cheese, then ham, then egg mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes.

Seriously, that’s all there is to it! I peeled, grated, rinsed, and blotted dry one large potato for this recipe. If you want to save steps (and avoid washing a peeler, grater, and bowl) you can use fresh shredded potatoes from the store, or even frozen shredded hash browns.

The quiche comes out of the pan cleanly, making it easy to plate. And oh, boy does it taste good! The Man moaned his way through two huge pieces and drove me nuts coming up with variations to try next.

As a reminder, Father’s Day is coming up and this would be an easy, man-pleasing breakfast to serve him. He’ll love you for it.

Lorinda