Desserts

Sugar on Snow in Vermont

Right before Christmas, Dane and I went up to Vermont to visit with Sam and Jason and their families. There’s always something to do or a new Vermonty thing to try (yes, Vermonty – it’s a word now). We’re always open to trying things, even though we’re the “city friends”.

When we first met Sam and Jason a few years ago, they told us about sugar on snow, and we’ve wanted to try it ever since. We finally got our chance! After heating maple syrup, you pour it over packed snow, which cools it and creates a soft candy consistency. There was plenty of snow up in VT, and obviously plenty of maple syrup.

Sam started with heating the maple syrup.

You should heat it slowly, because I learned that once it boils the maple syrup begins to bubble up really fast and can boil over. Learned that the hard way. Scared me when it started growing uncontrollably and I had to yank it off the burner.

Then she went outside and got some snow and packed it into a pan.

I was told you could use a candy thermometer for the syrup to watch when it gets to the right temperature. But, that’s not what Sam’s family does. Instead she takes a cold cup of water, and drops a little bit of the syrup into it. When the syrup blob hardens and sinks to the bottom, you’re ready to pour it over the snow. If you’re wondering about the temperature, I looked it up and you have to heat the syrup to 255 Fahrenheit.

Then pour it over the snow!

The maple syrup starts to harden as soon as it hits the cold snow, turning it into a soft candy texture.

Now take a fork to pull up the syrup and twirl it around like so. Jason will demonstrate.

The snow and cold was really fun to eat with the warm and gooey maple syrup. It gave it a really fun texture and the temperature difference was fun to eat together.

I learned that some places also call this Maple Taffy, and it seems pretty obvious why. The syrup becomes a taffy-like texture, complete with the stretch of taffy.

We are so happy we finally got to try this Vermonty treat! Thanks to Sam’s mom for making this for us and having us as guests again. We are pretty easy to make happy, and this was definitely a great way to do just that!

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies

We have this thing at work called ‘birthday buddies’. Every person in our division was given another person (Secret Santa style, no one knows who has who) and on their birthday you get them a treat and a card for everyone to sign. I obviously love this because it means I get to bake something delicious for someone.

My co-worker, however, does not bake. She doesn’t cook either. There was little hope for her birthday buddy, so she consulted me and asked if I’d be willing to make her birthday buddy’s favorite cookies. Of course I said yes, and I knew a recipe that I could adapt to make it happen.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies (Recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchens)

  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Granulated sugar for rolling
  • Hershey Kisses (one for each cookie you make)

Mix together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and peanut butter and stir well. Mix in the flour and baking soda. Add the flour a bit at a time to make sure the dough doesn’t get too dried out. You should be able to roll the dough into a ball without it sticking to your hands.

Roll the dough into about 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, roll them in the granulated sugar, and place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Press the balls down to form flatter circles. I used my hands, but you can also use the back of a fork to flatten them. The cookies won’t expand much, so you can see about how big they’ll be once you do this. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

These cookies can get dry if you leave them in too long, so make sure you take them out after 15 minutes. They won’t look much darker, so you can’t necessarily go by looks to see if they get golden brown, just go by time.

Now for the fun part. Unwrap all the Kisses and insert one into the center of each cookie. You want to do this about 5 minutes after the cookies come out of the oven. After you put the Kiss in, don’t move it around. The heat from the cookies will start to melt the Kisses, but they’ll harden again once they cool.

After they cool, enjoy!

A Sweet Ending to a Cheesy Dinner

After our macaroni and cheese dinner, I decided to be all lovey and mushy for our guests. It was time to break out the fondue pot and melt some chocolate for dipping! I picked up some yummy snacks that would be perfect for dipping, and started the prep.

Side note: The fondue set is from my niece who gave it to me for Mother’s Day when she was almost 1 years old. Or at least that’s what my sister tells me. I have a feeling my sister, Jenna, might have actually picked it out, but who knows. Abby can be very demanding when she wants something.

So back to melted chocolate. I washed and cut strawberries, broke up some pieces of graham cracker, cut pound cake into cubes, and sliced some banana to make a pretty arrangement for dipping. I melted the chocolate, and here’s the key, it was chocolate MADE for melting. If you buy some Hershey bars, you will not get the rich dippable chocolate you think of for fondue. I bought mine in bags at a craft store in the baking aisle. You can also find the chocolate wafers online at sites like Amazon.

Of course we couldn’t just have chocolate fondue. We had some champagne, so we popped open a bottle and served it with fresh strawberries. So yummy.

Then we were ready for some fun. With champagne glass in hand, we got to the dipping. There were a few times that our fruit or cake went overboard and we had to do a search and rescue to find it in the chocolate. I would recommend keeping a spoon or two handy, just in case that happens.

The boys, Dane and Derek, eventually started to play with their food and made sandwiches and went shish kabob style for their dipping, which was entertaining.

But I’ll leave you with this. My favorite shot of the night. Pretty sure there’s nothing better.

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

These are my absolute favorite cookies, made even better because Dane always makes them for me. I became a big fan of Craisins about 2 years ago, and much prefer them over raisins at this point. Knowing this, Dane substituted the normal raisin for the vastly superior (in my opinion) Craisin, and it was the perfect change! Gives the cookie a nice tart flavor in every bite, which works nicely with the sweetness of the rest of it.

Dane got the recipe from an oatmeal container, so there’s no big secret here. Here’s the recipe he uses:

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of Quaker oats
  • 1 cup of Craisins

Start with preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Once it’s creamy, add the eggs and vanilla. Mix that all together, then add in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix it well.

Next add in the oats and Craisins. And then? You guessed it. Mix it up!

Spoon the batter using heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet. This recipe made about 3 dozen cookies, so this might take a few batches depending on how many baking sheets you have handy.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet. When they’re all done, enjoy with a big glass of milk!

I brought some to work the next day and they were gone within minutes. Turns out everyone, not just me, really liked them! Thanks Dane, for making my favorite cookies!

Kristen

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

On Make Your Own Pizza night, our lovely guests insisted on bringing dessert (which is part of what made them lovely). But, instead of just bringing something, they brought the ingredients to make something: Strawberry Shortcake. *swoons*

They got started as soon as they settled in. Apparently, on the back of Bisquick boxes there’s a recipe for the shortcake part of the Strawberry Shortcake. We modified the recipe slightly to make the shortcake into muffins. Here it is!

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 package of strawberries/blueberries (really as much as you want of these)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • Whipped cream (or you can make your own)

First wash the strawberries and cut into quarters. We used a mix of strawberries and blueberries. Add the sugar and mix so all the berries are evenly covered. Put this in the fridge to chill and to soak up the sugar.

On to the shortcake. This part is super easy. Mix all the ingredients together. It should be the consistency of cake batter, not too sticky. You should be able to spoon it into the muffin cups. Spray a muffin pan (12 muffins) with nonstick spray and fill each cup about 2/3 of the way. Bake on 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. They’re done when you touch the top and they spring back, or if you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool, then cut in half. Add the fruit on top of the bottom half, put the top of the muffin on, then add more fruit and the whipped cream.

The presentation is great, and this can be a fun way to get everyone to play with their food. This can get a little messy to eat, but it’s so yummy! Thanks to K & B for coming over and making these for us!

Kristen

Mini Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Glaze & Peanut Butter Drizzle

This post could also be called “I’m an awesome person to work with” because I made these little gems for my co-worker’s birthday. She likes deserts, as any girl does, but usually in small doses. Unlike me, who could eat a chocolate cake with no issue, when something is especially sweet or rich, she just usually wants a taste. These mini cakes were perfect for her.

I got this recipe from a cookbook I’ve had forever (that my sister got me, she obviously loves me). I’ve had this page bookmarked for probably as long as I’ve owned the book as a reminder that I want to make them and this was finally the perfect reason. Here’s what I did.

Mini Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Glaze and Peanut Butter Drizzle

Ingredients for the mini cakes

  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the Chocolate Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for the Peanut Butter Drizzle

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips (I used Nestle peanut butter and chocolate chip mix)
  • 1 tablespoons shortening

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 mini muffin cups (two 12 cup pans). I used non-stick spray. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add the water, oil and vanilla extract and stir until the batter is smooth.

Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. You’ll know they are done when the tops spring back when touched lightly. Let them cool and move on to the glaze.

For the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa and water until smooth and slightly thickened. It should be kept at a low heat so that it doesn’t boil. Once the mixture has thickened a bit, remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar a little at a time. The powdered sugar will make the glaze thicken.

While the glaze is warm, dip the tops of each mini cake in to coat it. I think this part was really fun. Maybe that’s just me.

Once all the mini cakes are coated, get ready to start the drizzle. Put the peanut butter chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Mix it up. Place back in the microwave for 10 second intervals if needed, until the peanut butter chips are totally melted. Mix it up until it’s smooth. Transfer the melted peanut butter mixture into a plastic bag and cut one corner so you can drizzle it onto the cakes. I did it randomly, but it’d be fun to try some fun designs or even initials.

And you’re done! These were so delicious, but very rich. Get a big glass of milk and enjoy!

Kristen

Homemade Apple Pie

I love food requests. I have this thing where if someone asks me to make something, even if I’ve never made it before, I immediately have to make it for them. Works out great for my friends and family. I just have this need to make sure everyone is well fed and happy.

Last weekend one of our good friends jokingly said he wanted apple pie. I obviously went out and got what I needed to make apple pie. Not doing anything the easy way, I decided I’d also make the pie crust. Surprisingly, I’ve never made apple pie before so this was a new adventure.

First was the challenge of finding a recipe I liked. The results you get when you search for apple pie recipes is overwhelming and I sorted through a ton before I decided I got the gist of it and would just wing it myself for the filling. Once that was sorted out, I remembered we have a food processor that we’ve never used and that I could finally use it for the making the pie crust. I knew that pie crust could be fickle, but I found a great recipe that worked really well. Here’s how I did it.

Homemade Apple Pie

Ingredients for the crust

  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) of cold butter
  • 4-6 tablespoons of cold water

Ingredients for the filling

  • 4-5 large Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of a one lemon
  • Lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup of flour

Get started with the pie crust first. In a food processor add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Pulse a few times to mix it together. Now add the cold butter. I read a few places that the colder the butter, the flakier and better the crust will be. I actually saw some suggestions that said to stick the butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes before using it, so that’s what I did. When you take it out, cut each stick of butter into about 8 pieces and add it to the food processor. Pulse the mixture until it is fine and powdery. This took about 20 pulses for me. Next add the water. Start with 4 tablespoons and pulse until it’s mixed in. Check the mixture to see if it sticks when you press it together. If it doesn’t hold, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time and pulse until it does.

Once it’s ready, flour your surface and pour the mixture out so you can make it into 2 discs. Press the dough together and divide into two equal pieces in a circular shape.

Once you have your two disc shaped pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. They need to chill for at least one hour.

Now you’re ready to move on to the filling. Peel your apples and slice into at least 8ths depending on the size of your apple. I had to slice mine into 12ths because the apples were so big. Add to a bowl. Put in the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and some lemon zest. Mix it up so that the apple pieces are evenly covered. Next, add the flour and mix it in. This will help the mixture to thicken while it bakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After at least an hour in the fridge you’ll be ready to roll out the dough. Flour your surface again, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circular shape that will fit in the bottom of your pie pan, with about 1 inch of dough hanging over the sides. Add your apple mixture to the pie plate.

Now roll out the second piece. You have some options here. I always liked the way a pie looks with the lattice top, but you don’t have to do it that way. If you prefer just roll out the second piece, and place it over the top. Crimp the sides and cut 4 slits in the top of the crust.

I decided to go with the lattice pattern. I rolled out the dough into a circular shape and cut it into 1 inch strips. Cut about 8 strips. Place them on top of the pie,weaving them to make a lattice pattern. When the pieces are on, crimp around the edge of the pie.

Break one egg and scramble. Brush the egg (or just the egg white if you prefer) on the edge and top of the pie. Sprinkle with some granulated sugar and you’re ready for the oven. Bake on 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. When it’s done, cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

When it’s ready to be cut, serve with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for optimal yumminess. You can’t go wrong with some homemade apple pie!

I was really proud of myself when this was all done. It was definitely a labor intensive recipe, but there’s nothing like some homemade apple pie. It’s a classic everyone will love. Give it a shot!

Kristen

Apple Cinnamon Topping

I got a little creative this weekend when I had leftover apples from the sangria I made. We decided that we wanted waffles in the morning, and although syrup is always a good bet for a topping, the beauty of waffles is that you can put so many different kinds of toppings on them. I couldn’t just go for the syrup. It was too expected.

So, I had 4 small pink lady apples. And I got an idea. We love the way this variety of apple tastes, and pink lady apples have a great texture that would work well in an apple tart or pie. Why not make my own apple cinnamon topping? I’m all about making people happy.

Here’s what I did.

Apple Cinnamon Topping

Ingredients

  • 4 small apples (I used pink lady apples, but choose whatever variety you like best)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon flour

Peel the apples and core. I don’t have an apple corer, so I cut the apple into quarters and cut out the seeds myself. Cut the apple into small chunks. The smaller you cut it the faster it will cook, but don’t cut it so small that it’s practically apple sauce. I cut mine into about 1/4 inch cubes.

Preheat a nonstick frying pan to low-medium heat. Add the apples once the pan is heated. Add the brown and white sugar and cinnamon. Give it a stir to distribute the sugar and coat the apples. Add the water and stir again. Cover the pan and let the apple mixture simmer until the apples are tender, stirring occasionally. This took about 25 minutes for me.

Once the apples are tender, add the teaspoon of flour. This will thicken the mixture and make it the consistency of a pie filling. If you want it more syrupy, you can let it cool without adding the flour before using.

Now top your waffles and enjoy!

I didn’t actually have a recipe for this topping. Using the basics that I know from watching hours upon hours of the Food Network, I just decided to wing it. I’m glad it turned out well! This would be amazing served warm on top of some vanilla ice cream too. Definitely going to try that soon. You know, for the sake of the blog. Because I’m selfless like that.

What’s your favorite waffle topping?

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