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Sweet’N Low Seasonal Sips

30 Dec

As part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program, I recently received a wonderful package from Sweet’N Low, including a super cute cocktail shaker!

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I was challenged to create a low-sugar drink with my Sweet’N Low packets and since I’ve recently joined the peppermint mocha loving club, I decided to tackle my own version of the coffeehouse favorite.

The first ingredient I used was a simple cup of coffee. I used an instant coffee packet, but you can easily use a cup from your carafe or from a single serve machine.

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Pour your coffee in a fancy mug and then add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, for the mocha! Of course, the cocoa is unsweetened and that’s where the Sweet’N Low comes in. I used one packet for my single drink, but this part is really to taste, sweeten your drink as much as you like.

Next 1/2 a teaspoon of peppermint extract. Here’s where you can spike your drink with a splash of peppermint schnapps if you want. That’s one of the things I love about making individual drinks, you can fit each drinker with their favorite flavors.

Finally a swirl of whipped cream topped with a few chocolate chips and a peppermint candy, a low-calorie way to enjoy a sinful drink!

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Thanks to Sweet’N Low now I can enjoy peppermint mocha even after I start my diet tomorrow – cheers!

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Speedy Summer Sweets

7 Jun

Oh I love alliteration in my headlines.

This summer, well so far in May and June which has felt very summery, I’ve been going back to my dessert roots.

When I first started making desserts for my friends and family, mostly my dad, I wasn’t really baking, just creatively combining ingredients. This non-baking desserts is perfect for two things – warm weather and dessert-ing with children.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I tackled two of this speedy summer sweets.

Although we have a fire pit in the backyard, we don’t use it very often, so I decided to make s’mores on the oven. Be careful if you do this because stoves can be tricky – make sure you don’t over burn your marshies!

On Memorial Day my sister and family came over and Madeline and I mixed together some red, white and blue snacks. We made vanilla instant pudding (with red sprinkles stirred in) and layered frozen strawberries, the pudding and fresh blueberries in sugar ice cream cones. I wish I had one of those ice cream cone stands for this project, but otherwise they were really cute and a healthy way to celebrate the patriotic holiday.

Slightly Stolen Simple Sweets

27 May

The restaurant I work at has a very popular dessert they call “Banana Cream Pie.”

I always tell my tables, “it’s sort of like a banana cream mound, it’s really good though – you’ll like it!” And they always do.

Last week my grandparents were staying with us and one day we baked bread and made sauce and had my aunt, uncle & cousin over for dinner so I figured I should make something for dessert, since I would be embarrassed to have a meal here with nothing sweet at the end.

The night before at work I was watching the dessert prep chef put together the mound and I thought to myself, “this is so ridiculously easy, it’s funny how good people think it is, I mean it is really yummy, but so so easy.” That thought and the important factor that Tuesday was National Vanilla Pudding Day, led me to my slightly stolen simple sweet. My version, which I will call, Vanilla Banana Cream Mound.

Step 1: Crush graham crackers to your liking. I basically cracked one sheet per dessert plate so they were chunks not crumbs.

Step 2: Make or buy vanilla pudding. I used fat-free/sugar-free instant pudding and skim milk (we just ate bread, sauce, pork and noodles, people, this was a lite dessert). Top the crackers with the pudding. (By the way at work we use banana pudding).

Step 3: Divide one 8-oz container of cool whip amongst your plates. Again, lite cool whip, I didn’t measure just glopped. We don’t use cool whip at work, just whipped cream but I liked the idea of mixing the two.

Step 4: Slice bananas and surround your mound with the slices.  As many slices per plate as you’d like.

Step 5: Top the cool whip with whipped cream, fat-free Reddi Whip, one can for 8 plates.

Step 6: Sprinkle silvered almonds a top your creation

Step 7: Finish with a caramel drizzle. You’re done! Enjoy!

What I love about desserts like this is that they’re quick and yummy but also so versatile. You don’t like bananas? ok, use a different fruit. Almond allergy? Get rid of them. Prefer chocolate pudding and crushed Oreos? Yum, invite me over. Just use your imagination and create something fun for your friends and family, isn’t that the whole reason for dessert anyway?

Mother’s Day Breakfast and Dessert

14 May

I hope all of the mothers out there had a great Sunday filled with relaxing family events and yummy eats! We tried to make all of that happen for my mom yesterday and I think we did a pretty good job. She got to enjoy a day full of planting and gardening with Michael’s help and thanks to Tommy & Jaime and Marilee & Jay’s Home Depot gift cards.

From me, my mom got breakfast, and Starbucks. I’m on a budget, but I think she enjoyed her gifts.

I started the breakfast the day before by pre-cooking bacon, much like I did on Easter. Baking bacon is the smartest, cleanest way to get to deliciousness. I used the bacon for breakfast pizza.

The first pizza featured a sautéed combo of 8 eggs, spinach, mushrooms and bacon. Basically you just scramble your eggs mixed with toppings and once they’re done top them on the crust, cover with cheese (mozzarella on this one) and pop in the oven for 5ish minutes. Honestly I wasn’t happy with the crust. I bought whole wheat just to make it healthier, but I think in the future I would either make my own crust or go with something a little thicker. This was cracker-y and we ended up buttering the ends to make it better, which kind of defeats the whole wheat.

I topped the other with an easy mix of bacon, eggs and cheddar cheese. Both combos were pretty yummy and it was great to be able to mix the tops and then 5 minutes before breakfast heat them up.

An impromptu addition (which turned out to be a huge hit) were pineapple yogurt mini muffins. I decided to make these at about 8:45 yesterday morning and decided we needed a side dish. I found this recipe but made a few changes. I used one Chobani 2% Pineapple single serve container, one 6 oz Dannon Light & Fit Pina Colada container and a few spoonfuls of Fage 0% Greek Yogurt. I used about a cup of drained canned pineapple as the fruit mix-in and I left the topping out. These muffins were so moist and delicious.

Perfect for a certain 1-year-old that loved them and definitely a healthier recipe. Yum.

I plated the muffins, with some breakfast sausage, perfectly sweet pineapple chunks and huge strawberries.

For dessert last night I made what I’ll call a 5-minute choose your flavor cheesecake in a store-bought graham cracker crust. I like homemade crusts but didn’t really have time so I opted to buy one, either way the pie was so quick and easy! I used the remaining cup of pineapple chunks from breakfast and tossed them in the mixer followed by one 8oz brick of cream cheese and one tub of cool whip (you decide the fat content for both items), then I added two chopped and peeled kiwi and a few splashes of pineapple juice. I mixed everything, poured it in the crust and let it sit in the fridge for 8 hours.

It was the perfect creamy pie to end the beautiful day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Brunch is Better than Lunch

11 Apr

Lunch just makes me think of my dad asking for a sandwich. Boring. Brunch is filled with all of the things you could ever want, really, there are not rules at brunch.

I think next year I’ll give up something other than dessert for lent.

My reasons are multi-fold. Number 1, it wasn’t actually as difficult as I expected it to be. This may be because I turned to pizza and toast as “fun foods,” or because I wasn’t really able to spend a lot on ingredients, Number 2, I didn’t gain anything but a stomach-ache for the last three days when I reintroduced (and by that I mean overloaded) myself with candy, and Number 3, I just missed baking, making and writing here! I’ll just have to rethink this in about 10 months.

I have three things to write about, but I think I’ll do them backwards, because the best was the most recent – Easter brunch! Because my parents were on a cruise up until 9:00pm the night before Easter, I was the leader of the brunch. I have no problems doing that, just hand me a credit card and a full day for prep work and I’m ready. Plus it helped that I have fun little people to bake for and fun grown-ups who supplied the champagne.

I spent some time (ok, I spent a few days) deciding what I wanted to make (technically these aren’t all desserts, but they all did bake in the oven). I wanted an easy, overnight french toast and then a completely opposite egg bake – no bread. We had toast, of course, but I wanted to make something slightly healthy or at least give my eaters a choice.

I found a super awesome recipe for what I called the Egg Bake, and then I michelle-ed it. The recipe calls for spinach, green onions, mozzarella cheese and 8 eggs. I changed it by swapping out the onions for asparagus (which I chopped and roasted the day before), and then I used a bigger pan, 9×13, so I used 2 cups of cheese and 10 eggs. It was super fantastic and relatively healthy.

Then I made another egg bake with the exact same idea, but much heartier ingredients – bacon and potatoes. I cooked some frozen hash browns in a wok and spread them on the bottom of a 9×13 and topped that with super easy oven-roasted bacon. Seriously, go buy some bacon, foil cover a pan, and then 25 minutes later at 400 degrees you’re gonna be very happy. I topped the potatoes with the bacon, a bag of cheddar cheese and 11 eggs. I cooked both at 375 for about 40 minutes.

Next up – apple fritter french toast! I’m usually anti-store brand items, mostly just Jewel and Dominicks brand. I don’t know if maybe we had some weird cookies, oatmeal or what growing up, but I just didn’t like those. Target, however, always has delicious store brand items. I spent about 10 minutes in the bakery aisle, and came upon pure genius, apple fritter breakfast bread. I had a yummy looking recipe picked out, from the Pioneer Woman, but wanted to make it my own, so I swapped the bread for the apple fritter loaf, used half and half instead of cream and accidentally used softened butter in the topping. It was really good, but I definitely want to try it with the right topping and see the difference. I was most excited that all three of my “bakes” turned out, cooked, warm and yummy.

As for dessert, I went to my staple, chocolate covered strawberries. Remember the video? Always throw a little shortening in the chocolate so they look pretty.

Finally, chocolate chip, Oreo, brown sugar, giant brownies. Betty Crocker never steers me wrong. I mixed up the red box, added in 3/4 of the snack size bag of mini Oreos, half a bag of dark chocolate chips, half a bag of milk chocolate chips and about 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Mini Oreos seems liked a better idea than chopping up big ones, I love chocolate chips and I had some weird yearning for brown sugar, so that’s where the add-ins came from. I decided to cut them huge because they looked pretty, but mostly because they were unbelievably gooey and I knew I’d have trouble if I tried to cut them smaller.

We also had pineapple, toast (thanks mom), champagne, and of course, Easter candy.

 

Then I took a 4 hour nap.

Happy Easter!

Touchdown!

9 Feb

Maybe a little fumble, but it was recovered.

I love ANY occasion to throw a party, and honestly not just because I can make a dessert… or 2 or 3… but because I like people getting together for fun. Sounds corny, but it’s true and I bet most of you who read this agree.

We didn’t throw a Super Bowl party, but I baked some football party sweets anyway. You can’t pass up the decorating possibilities of sporting events. Plus, we are having a dessert swap with our landlords (and their 7 kids) lately, so they got a set of these guys to cheer on the players.

From my years as the best Secret Charrelle ever, I always think brownies when I think football desserts. There’s just that timeless football field green frosting on a super choco-filled brownies that screams “Go Team!” and that’s exactly what I did last weekend. Green buttercream frosting atop adorable square brownies, decorated with extra white frosting and toothpicked with a paper football. The perfect addition to a party, even if you go to a bar for the game.

That was the touchdown, the fumble came with my greek yogurt inspired dip. You see, I’m trying 2 things here, 1) to break out of my comfort zone (new year’s reso!) and 2) to find some suitable non-dessert snacks for lent (less than 2 weeks away).

I thought maybe the super yummy new Chobani flavor, Apple Cinnamon, could be an ingredient. I later realized that it’s kind of already a dip, and that Greek yogurt is thick, and when you mix it with dry pudding mix, it just gets thicker.

I ended up using three yogurts and still didn’t get anything creamy and actually dippable. I did still eat all of the pita chips and the yogurt throughout the weekend, but I ate the “dip” with a spoon. Therefore, I would try it again with thinner yogurt, or just dip the chips in the yumminess that Chobani already perfected. Oh, well it was a good try. Go Team!

 

The rests

25 Jan

I made three desserts that didn’t fit in my cookie categories of the fudgesthe dropsroll outsthe bars and the minty Oreo balls, and I call these the “rests.” Simply the “rest” wouldn’t be good enough.

I mean, if I had to put these almond biscotti in a category, they would be “the shapes” or “the cuts,” or they could fall into my oops at least they still tasted good category.

My grandpa is a cookie lover. He loves all things sweet, especially if they involve pecans or almonds. I love that he is honest about the sweets I make though. He won’t eat it if it’s gross, which is rare for sugar-lovers. Because he’s such a cookie trooper, I make sure to shape some biscotti for him every year. This one was my last of the bunch. Recipe #18. I think I save it for last because I know I’ll make them for him even if I’m burnt out. I mix and matched some flavors, which orange zest and anise seed and it was a success. I’d only put it in my oops-cookies because I tend to under bake biscotti the first time around and so when I slice them to bake again, they get a little crumbly and end up in my mouth instead of back in the oven. Taste testing is important.

Next we have Almond Cranberry-Chocolate Bark. I got this one from a recipe card in a fitness magazine, and it called for dried cherries, not cranberries, but dried cherries are sparse and pricey and Craisins were already in my cabinet. The christmas red fruit still cheered up the recipe, which is basically melted chocolate poured over toasted almonds and the Craisins. Equally as delicious as it is easy. Quite possibly foolproof.

Finally, for my mom and her hope for a light dessert, Chocolate Chip Meringues. These are pretty fun to whip up (literally whip). They are pretty easy as long as you whip to the right peaks, but most recipes for meringues are clear as to when you need soft or hard peaks. Also, it’s fun to add in your favorite chunks – mini chocolate chips on these. Cute, different, yum.

I’m definitely on a sugar-rush right now as I spent the last three hours diving head first into the office candy collection, hence the run-on sentences. Well, hence more than usual.

That’s the end of my Christmas collection. Sad face. Guess that means I better get to work on Super Bowl sweets and Valentine’s Treats!

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