Monday, December 19, 2011

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes

I know it's almost Christmas but I still have a plethora of pumpkin recipes to share (and more to come because I've hoarded about 15 cans. I'm crazy, I know). So here's a good one!

Let me start off by saying that I'm not a huge fan of pancakes. I generally like a savory breakfast of eggs, meat and carbs. I'm also a big fan of cereal and toast with peanut butter. But pancakes and french toast aren't my favorite. I think it might be that I don't really love syrup or anything maple flavored. However, Tom enjoys them and I don't absolutely hate them so I try to make one of the two when I see him.

This was my first time making pancakes (ya know, because I don't like them). So I was really nervous that I'd either burn them or turn them into a pile of gooey mess. But I didn't! It took a lot of effort and caused my unnecessary stress but I managed.

Also, I will never just make plain pancakes. Ever. I don't like my food boring so I always have to jazz it up. So if I'm going to make pancakes, I have to make some version of the bland breakfast that will: a) incorporate things that love and b) have some kind of flavor so I don't have to use much syrup. And this is how I decided upon pumpkin.

You all know how I feel about pumpkin. Obsessed. Now you will learn how I feel about streusel. LOVE IT. I won't eat a pie without streusel topping. It's just perfect, especially when it gets a little dark and crispy. This recipe had both so it was on my "make immediately" list.

These pancakes are really filling. Tom and I shared them and we couldn't finish the whole plate because they had a very cake-y consistency. So just keep that in mind when you decide how many to make because a little goes a looooong way!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes (4 servings) from Two Peas and Their Pod
·         For the cinnamon streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
·         To make the pancakes:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. First, make the cinnamon streusel. In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Mix together with your hands or a fork, until you have a crumbly mixture. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk until combined.
4. Heat a griddle or pan to medium low. Coat with cooking spray. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto heated skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon streusel. Cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip pancake over and cover very generously with cinnamon streusel. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Continue this process to make the rest of the pancakes.
5. Serve pancakes warm with maple syrup and butter.

the gigantic pancake that was extremely difficult to flip


you can tell how hard I'm concentrating

beautiful finished product :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mashed Sweet Potato Brulee

So tomorrow is my last final for the semester. My normal course of action before a final is to get strung out on coffee, eat only gummy candy, neglect sleep and cram in all the information that I didn't learn all semester. It gets really ugly. However, I've been on my game so I barely need to study this semester! It's almost like I'm a responsible adult. Except I don't have money or a real job. But it's awesome because instead of being a shell of a person, I'll be spending my evening leisurely sipping decaf tea, writing about food, and watching Pixar's Up. Perfection.

Speaking of animated movies... I'm really disturbed by today's youth. Today I showed The Lion King to a senior Spanish class. It started at the part where Mufasa dies. I reacted like any normal human being would... by erupting into tears. I probably could have held it together if I had been prepared but I didn't realize that it'd start out like that. And I hadn't had my coffee so I was really emotional. The kids looked at me like I was insane. Granted, I'm a total movie and book crier (The Notebook and Stepmom are my biggest vices). Real life situations? Not so much. It's weird. But anyway, these kids must have hearts of stone. I don't think you should be allowed to own animals or reproduce or be a member of society if Mufasa's death doesn't make you AT LEAST a little misty-eyed. It's the only true test of character. And they didn't laugh at Timone and Pumba at all.  I swear, I teach demons.

Sorry, I just had to vent. Back to food...

So this recipe is also from Thanksgiving. My mom requested that I find something to do with sweet potatoes. Personally, I just like them baked with butter or roasted with olive oil. I think they have such a great flavor and I don't like to mess with it too much. Last year, I tried the typical casserole with the syrup and marshmallows. It was a huge flop. The whole thing was still sitting there at the end of dinner. So I looked for something that would bring out the sweetness of the potatoes but not turn it into dessert. I found this and it worked beautifully! The sugar on top gave just the right amount of sweetness (and a little crunch too!).  The only mistake I made was making enough for a large army when my family only consists of seven people. Luckily, my grandmother said it freezes well so nothing was wasted :)

Try this recipe if you're looking for a sweet potato recipe that's just a little sweet and a lot tasty :)

Mashed Sweet Potato Brulee (14 ½ cup servings – 114 cals) from Skinnytaste
  • 5 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled until soft
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3 tbsp light butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unpacked light brown sugar

1.  When the potatoes are cooked and soft, combine them with milk, light butter, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mash or puree until smooth.  
2.  Spoon into a 9 x 9 or 11 x 7-inch baking dish.
3.  Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar evenly over top. Broil 2 minutes or until sugar melts, careful not to burn. Let it stand until the melted sugar hardens (about 5 minutes).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Oatmeal Crumble

Pumpkin pie... the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert ever.

I won't lie. I don't love it.

Weird, right? First, because I love all food. Second, because I love pumpkin. I buy some every time I go to the store so I can hoard it away and pull it out when it's no longer in season. Trust me, you'll see pumpkin recipes on here in the middle of summer. My taste buds don't care about seasons.

Anyway, I think it's a texture thing. And it's just kind of boring, you know? There's no wow factor. That and by the time I get around to the dessert, I don't even want to look at food. For an average sized girl, I can eat an absolutely disgusting amount of mashed potatoes and stuffing. No really... it's gross and unnatural.

Well, I set out to find a recipe with some pizazz and that would amend the texture issue.  I found this. The cinnamon crunch is delicious and makes the pie feel less like custard. And it's just different enough to grab my attention. Granted, I only had a tiny piece because I couldn't stop eating all the Thanksgiving carbs, but I thought it was good! Definitely much better than the ones you can buy at the store that, for some reason, can sit out on the shelves for weeks. So give this a try if you're sort of impartial to pumpkin pie and want to spice it up!

 Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Crunch (adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown recipe)
  • Cinnamon Crunch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold
  • Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Filling
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
11/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
11/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for the top
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1.       To make the cinnamon crunch, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.       Combine the flour, oats, muscovado sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor, and process a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Pat the mixture evenly into a 4-inch square on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Keep the oven on.
3.       To make the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until combined. Press evenly onto the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake until light golden brown and firm, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
4.       Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
5.       To make the filling, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars, and the molasses together in a medium bowl. Mix in the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla seeds or extract. Whisk in the butter.
6.       Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, pour the pumpkin mixture into the shell, and sprinkle additional cinnamon over the top. Bake until the filling is set around edges but the center still jiggles slightly when shaken, 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
7.       Cut the pie into slices and top each with a large dollop of whipped cream and some of the cinnamon crunch.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cranberry Pear Sauce

Hi!  I feel like I'm apologizing for my absence in every post! The holidays and finals are really keeping me busy.  I have been cooking but I just haven't had time to post anything.  The next couple weeks will be dedicated to everything that I made for Thanksgiving. This was my first year actually cooking dishes from scratch so I was pretty excited. My mom, grandmother, and I cooked the staples - the turkey, potatoes, and stuffing - together but I took over most of the rest of the side dishes and desserts.

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday.  It's a whole day dedicated to food, football, family, and adult beverages. What's not to love?  The Packers stomped the Lions (if you watched the game... pun intended) so that ensured that my day would be glorious. I am thankful that they are the best team in the NFL and that Aaron Rodgers is so charming and handsome.

Back to food...

The dish I was most excited about was the cranberry sauce.  Weird, right? I could eat it right out of the can with the spoon. I love mixing it with mayo to have as a holiday inspired condiment throughout the year.  However, a couple years ago I read that it is the item with the least nutritional value on the Thanksgiving table. Probably because the canned stuff is just pure sugar and chemicals. No, this did not stop me from eating slice after slice. But this year I decided to try to find a recipe to "healthify" the sweet condiment. Trust me, the canned version still has a very special place in my heart and cabinet but it's simply not pretty enough for a feast. I'm a classy gal so I want classy condiments while I eat my turkey dinner like a barbarian. 

This recipe is surprisingly delicious, easy, and healthy! And it looks way more attractive on the table than a tube of jelly that stays in the shape of the can it has probably been sitting in for 10 years.  I love that the pears are responsible for a lot of the sweetness rather than copious amounts of sugar.  This was my first time using agave and it worked well in the recipe.  I tasted it before I added it and was a little worried because it tasted a little like honey (which I don't really like) but I didn't taste it in the final flavor. If you don't have agave or don't feel like searching for it, you can just add sugar until it is sweet enough for you.

Some people (my mother) weren't crazy about the skins of the cranberries in the sauce.  I generally like texture in my food so I loved it but next year I might try to strain out the cranberry skins and leave the chunks of pear.  So make this next year!  It's definitely more difficult to shake the jelly out of the can than it is to make this.

Cranberry Pear Sauce (from Skinnytaste)
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, and cubed small
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1 cup water
1.  Bring all the ingredients to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan.
2.  When boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. Serve chilled or room temperature.  Makes 3 1/4 cups.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Smoothie

I cannot stop drinking this.  I've had one (and sometimes two) daily for the last week.

It's really quick to throw together, has very few ingredients, has a great consistency (not too watery and not so thick that you have to eat it with a spoon), and is really healthy!  Oh, and it tastes like cold pumpkin pie.

I know what you're thinking... "pumpkin smoothie" does not sound appetizing. I totally agree. Usually my smoothies are super fruity so this is totally different.  But just try it, I promise you won't be disappointed. Plus, it's HEALTHY and tastes like PIE. So you can have it - guilt free - whenever you want. It can be a sweet treat for breakfast or a light dessert. Can't get much better than that.

I've topped it with fat free whipped cream, graham crackers, and granola. All delicious and add to the pumpkin pie aura. 

 Pumpkin Smoothie  (serves 1)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 very ripe medium-sized banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, making sure the ice is completely crushed. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Sorry again for being MIA. I had a crazy week in school with about a million assignments due. I also stressed about quitting my super crappy part-time job but I finally did it (yay!). Then I went home for the weekend to relax and recover.  Now, I'm back and ready to blog :)

This is the recipe for one of my new favorite things.  Spaghetti squash.

I'm always looking for carb substitutes because if I don't carefully monitor myself, I consume far too many. I love bread and pasta and basically anything starchy.

I had never heard of spaghetti squash until I started looking at food blogs.  And frankly, I wasn't that interested.  It didn't look that appetizing to me and I figured that it must take a ton of work to get squash to look like spaghetti.  Also, I feel that every Italian relative that I have would roll over in their grave if they saw me substituting a vegetable for pasta.

False on all accounts. It's totally easy to make - an hour in the oven and a couple minutes of scraping with a fork.  It's absolutely delicious. It has a sweet flavor on it's own which means you don't have to dress it up too much if you don't want to.  However, it is also plain enough so that you can put any sauce on it. And it's really healthy. So go ahead and throw some creamy alfredo and some extra cheese on there without feeling guilty!

I just cooked the squash, scraped out the insides, and stored it in plastic containers in the fridge. I topped the squash with sauce/toppings only right before eating it so that it wouldn't get soggy and weird. Here are the ways that I have eaten it. Just butter and some Parmesan cheese.  Mushrooms, garlic, and butter. Chicken, pesto, and pine nuts. Marinara sausage. Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and feta. Vodka sauce and sausage. Alfredo and asparagus.  The possibilities are endless! I didn't photograph all of these concoctions because they don't look half as wonderful as they taste.

The only downside I have found to spaghetti squash is that I cannot figure out how to freeze it. I tried all of the ways that I found online and it always came out wet and mushy, like the gunk in a pumpkin.  Luckily, I have no problem eating a whole squash in a timely manner :)

Stock up on some spaghetti squash while they are still in season! They will keep for months if they are kept in a cool, dark-ish place in your house.

Baked Spaghetti Squash 
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.
2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds. Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
3. Top with anything that you'd put on pasta! Favorite sauces, meat, veggies... go crazy!

One of my creations.  Mushrooms and garlic butter topped with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Goat Cheese, Brie, Caramelized Onion and Apple Sandwich

This sandwich is a great combination of fall and summer flavors, which is perfect for the crazy weather we've been having.  One day it's freezing and feels like the middle of fall and the next day it's sunny and feels like the end of summer.

Also, I'm in love with the fact that it contains two fancy cheeses. I love cheese.  Especially nice cheese with strong flavors.  Two in one meal?!?! Hallelujah!

The crunch of the apple counters the soft cheese beautifully.  The savory onion pairs well with the sweetness of the apple and the spinach adds a dash of color. I love everything  about the look, taste, and texture of this sandwich.

It's great plain because of all the complex flavors.  But I am the queen of condiments.  If I'm eating a salad, I generally chooses at least 3 dressing to try.  On a deli sandwich, I get sides of flavored mayos, mustards, and hot sauce. On hot dogs and hamburgers, I eat ketchup, mustard, 2 kinds of relish, sauerkraut, BBQ sauce, and basically anything I can get my hands on. Who knows if I even like hot dogs? I don't think I can actually taste it under my mess of condiments. Sometimes I think I just eat as an excuse to taste condiments... kinda gross, huh?  So I tried the sandwich with honey mustard dressing and raspberry vinaigrette and both were heavenly.

If you are a fellow lover of cheese and aren't sick of apples yet, you should make this.

Goat Cheese, Brie, Caramelized Onion and Apple Sandwich (1 sandwich – 490 cals) from healthy food for living
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 oz soft goat cheese (about 2 Tbsp), at room temperature for easier spreading
  • 1 oz soft brie cheese (about 2 Tbsp), at room temperature for easier spreading <– you can remove the rind if you’d like
  • 1/4 apple, cored & thinly sliced
  • fresh spinach
  • 2 slices of bread (I used an English muffin, but this would be really tasty on some hearty wheat and nut bread)
  1. Slice the onion in half lengthwise (through the “poles”) and then remove the papery skin. Thinly slice the onion widthwise (around the “equator”).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add in the salt and sugar. Lower stove temperature to medium-low/low and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the onions have turned a deep golden brown color. Let cool.
  3. Spread the softened goat cheese onto one slice of bread. Spread the softened brie on the other.
  4. Layer the greens, sliced apple, and caramelized onion onto one slice of bread; top with the other.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

I'm giving up on the appetizers.  I'm sorry.  I'll do it when I can but I found myself feeling pressured to constantly munch on them because I had so many leftovers.  And I was substituting meals for appetizers all week and it was making me cranky. But there's good news....


I always said that I would never drink coffee in the morning because I never wanted to need something to help me wake up. My mother needs her morning coffee to function and I swore it would never be me.

Then I started substitute teaching.  I now need a morning coffee.  And generally an after-school coffee.  And sometimes even an evening "pick-me-up" coffee.

Not only does the caffeine get me through the day, I just love the flavor.  Usually I just drink it with skim milk and Splenda but sometimes, when I need an extra dose of happiness in my life, I need a coffee drink that is packed with delicious flavors and labeled with a fancy name.

In the fall, my drink of choice is a pumpkin spice latte.  I can't go by a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts without craving one. However, at about 3-4 dollars per drink, my wallet was getting a little lighter than I'm comfortable with. Therefore, I decided that I had two options:

1) Go on a mission to find a recipe that would allow me to indulge my cravings without breaking the bank.
2) Ask Starbucks if they would consider hiring me and paying me in coffee.

I chose number one because I don't really want to make coffee for other people. Just me.

I found this.  It's quick and easy.  You don't need some at home barista machine to make it.  It takes me about 2 minutes to make and it provides me all the happiness I need to get through my 2 and half hour graduate class. That's a lot of joy in one cup.

This is an iced version because it's still warm enough to enjoy iced beverages.  Or I'm just trying to avoid the inevitable winter season.

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte (1 serving) from Healthy Food For Living
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 3 Tbsp pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground ginger
  • tiny pinch ground nutmeg
  • tiny pinch cloves *if you don't have all of these spices, you could just use pumpkin pie spice!
  • ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee that has chilled thoroughly in the fridge
  1. Combine milk, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and spices in a blender; blend until well-combined and frothy. You could also just put the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them until frothy (which is what I did).
  2. Pour mixture into a large glass filled halfway with ice cubes. Slowly pour in the chilled coffee. Serve with a dusting of cinnamon and whipped cream, if desired.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Blondies

This is my first pumpkin baking escapade!

And I finally tried substituting unsweetened applesauce for butter.  The original recipe called for two sticks of butter but I used one stick of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" and 1/2 of a cup of applesauce.  I have never made this recipe before so I can't comment on any taste difference. But it tasted plenty sweet and delicious to me so I think I'll continue using this trick. Between substituting applesauce for butter, using Splenda and whole wheat flower, I'll give myself a pat on the back for cutting out hundreds of calories and making this recipe more healthy!

I would bake this again just to have my kitchen smell like comforting fall spices and warm caramel.  Oh, and because they were delicious. I wrapped some up for my grandmother to bring to my grandfather and apparently they didn't make it to him so I guess that's a good sign (either that or she left them in the car, but I'm choosing to think positive).

The only downside to these treats is that the caramel makes them SO sticky.  Though this makes for a tasty treat, they were a pain to cut and came out looking a little rough.  Therefore, I wouldn't bring these to a party because they just don't look pretty.  But there's nothing wrong with some ugly deliciousness between friends and family :) After they taste these, I promise they'll forgive you!

I think these taste best warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds with a little bit of ice cream or whipped cream (I use the fat free stuff so I can go whipped CrAzY!). Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Blondies (from baked bree)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick room temperature butter(or margarine for baking)
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar (I used 1 1/8 cup of brown sugar Splenda blend)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup store bought caramel sauce with 1 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  2. Cream together the butter and brown sugar until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla.
  3. Add the pumpkin puree. Add the reserved flour mixture slowly, and stop when the batter is just combined.
  4. Spray a 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of the batter and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.
  5. Pour over the caramel sauce.
  6. Cover the caramel with the remaining batter.
  7. Return the blondies to the oven and bake for another 40-50 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean. Let the blondies cool before cutting. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Curried Cream Cheese with Dried Cherries, Pine Nuts, and Green Onions

Back to football Sunday appetizers!

I love conflicting tastes in one dish.  I'm the person who always reaches for the sweet and salty combo. Or sweet and sour. Or sweet and savory. Or hot and sweet.  My taste buds get pretty bored so I find these interesting tastes shock them back to life.

I also love to try things that don't seem like they would go together. I find that I'm usually pleasantly surprised.  For example, chocolate covered potato chips.  I thought it sounded totally bizarre.  So obviously I had to try them.  And thank God that I did because they're also totally addictive.

Well, that's what drew me to this dip.  The sweetness of the dried cherries (it was originally cranberries, but I like cherries better), the bite of the green onion, the spicy curry and pepper jelly, the creamy cream cheese, and the crunchy pine nuts.  My taste buds were anticipating a roller-coaster ride.

That and it's literally everything Tom hates all in one dish.  Everything that I just mentioned that I love about the dip, he despises... other than cream cheese. I told him about it and he simply said, "eewww".  So I figured this should be an appetizer that I make for personal consumption, which is fine by me because it's so tasty that I don't want to share.

This isn't a very football oriented appetizer (sorry!).  But just think of it as a very New York autumn taco dip.  This might be better suited for a wine and cheese party with adventurous foodies. If you're looking to try something really simple and different, give this a shot... maybe your taste buds need to be brought back to life too!  I've eaten it on wheat thins, pretzels, rice cakes, and carrots so far.  All of them were delicious, though the carrots didn't pick up the cherries very well so I had to grab a spoon.  Because the dip has so much going on, it'd be best to keep whatever you choose pretty plain.

Now I'm going to go open a box of wine and enjoy my personal fancy shmancy cheese dip. 

Curried Cream Cheese with Dried Cherries, Pine Nuts, and Green Onions (from Once Upon a Recipe)
·         8 ounces of fat freecream cheese, softened
·         2 tsp. curry powder (or you can use an combination of savory spices like cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cloves, onion powder)
·         2 tsp. ground cumin
·         1/2 cup red pepper or red chile jelly, divided
·         1/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
·         1/4 cup pine nuts
·         1/4 cup green onions, chopped (about 3 green onions)
1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes.
2.  Combine the cream cheese, spices, and 3 TBSP. of the jelly until smooth.
3.  Spread the mixture into the bottom of a shallow dip dish (roughly 5″ x 7″).
4.  Spread the remaining jelly over top of the cream cheese mixture. Combine the dried cherries, pine nuts, and green onions in a small bowl to mix, then sprinkle evenly over top of the dip.
5.  Chill until you serve. 

 Yeah, it's in a tupperware container.  That's all I've got, okay? Jeez.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bar

Hi, everyone!  Sorry, I was MIA for a little bit.  I went to visit Tom for the holiday weekend and we were dog sitting and I didn't have access to wireless internet.  But I'm back! And with a treat that will definitely satisfy your craving for fall flavors and sugar.

These bars have so many great tastes all in one treat.  Cheesecake, apples, streusel topping, caramel.  Needless to say, this combination of flavors is why I chose it as my first apple baking attempt of the season.

Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients.  Most of them are spices that you probably already have and the list repeats sugar and butter for all of the layers. I used Splenda for both types of sugar and 1/3 fat cream cheese.  Next time, I'll try fat free cream cheese (it was plenty sweet so I'm sure cutting down on the calories a little more wouldn't hurt).  I also want to start experimenting with using applesauce instead of butter. Or something instead of butter.  You don't realize how much butter is in baked goods until you actually unwrap stick after stick and put it in a pan.  So I'll be trying some butter substitutions in the near future. Wish me luck.

Be sure to let these chill in the fridge for a couple hours before you cut them.  I didn't because they came out of the oven just as Tom was leaving and I wanted to send him home with some.  He said they were great but I basically felt like I was a lunch lady, slopping cafeteria lunch food into plastic wrap for him to take home.  Tasted great, looked like garbage.  Once I let them cool and cut them, they were much easier to work with and the layers looked more distinct.

You can eat them cold or pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and serve them with a little bit of ice cream.  I'm not really a vanilla fan (booooooring) so I've been going with maple walnut (a flavor of ice cream I have recently discovered that I like) and pumpkin pie ice cream (need I say more?).

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
·         Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
·         Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         Apples:
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         Streusel topping,
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup caramel topping
1.                  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.                  In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
3.                  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
4.                  In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
5.                   In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for streusel topping. I like to really combine it by using my clean hands to thoroughly combine the butter into the mixture.
6.                  Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold and enjoy!