Friday, December 30, 2011

The Elvis Cake

I hate to post dessert recipes three days in a row, but as the new year comes to a close, I am going through some recipes I have made but haven't shared yet.  And this cake is one of them.  Also, I think it is a good idea to get these yummy desserts out of my system before the new year starts.  I know a lot of people will be making resolutions tomorrow to eat healthier in 2012.  After splurging a bit this holiday season, quite frankly, even yours truly could probably stand to eat a little better.  So here's to one last horrah of 2012!  Now to the cake...

About a month ago, my husband and I had one of his classmates from law school staying with us while he started a new job near our town.  His first night at our house we were discussing Topeka, where we all used to live.  We agreed that one of our favorite things about Topeka was Sheridan's Frozen Custard.  It is home to the best frozen treats I have ever tasted.  Like heaven in a plastic cup.  Every fall I looked forward to their Pumpkin Pie Concrete.  Amazing!  Our guest mentioned that his favorite concoction was the Elvis, which is a tempting blend of banana and peanut butter. 

I love banana and peanut butter together.  Who doesn't?  The next day I was trying to decide what kind of goodie to make with our dinner.  It struck me that a banana cake with peanut butter would be the perfect treat for our guest.  I found a recipe for a banana bundt cake that had peanut butter in it and a peanut butter glaze.  It sounded perfect!  I even made a few healthy swaps.  Since I didn't post a Makeover Monday this week (I spent 7 hours in a car that day!), consider this your Friday, New Year's Eve Eve Makeover.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

The title for these little treasures is kind of a mouthful, but it's important that you know all the goodies they contain!  Peanut butter.  Oatmeal.  Chocolate.  Interested yet?  I thought so.

Food Science 101: Why Do Apple Slices Turn Brown?

Everyone knows that if you slice up an apple and leave it sitting out, the slices will quickly turn brown.  What everyone doesn't know is why.  But you are about to find out!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Christmas may be over for most people, but I still have one to go.  I know I probably should have shared this recipe with you before December 25th, but I just never got around to it.  So if you, like me, still have an after-the-official-Christmas-day celebration to attend, please make cranberry upside-down cake.

This cake is perfect for the season with a hint of cinnamon and cloves and the sweet tartness of cranberries.  Plus it is a great cake to make if you don't want to take the time to frost a traditional cake.  Just make it, bake it, and turn it upside down.  The cranberries make their own beautiful topping.  Plus they add a powerful punch of antioxidants no frosting can compete with.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Easy Empanada Casserole

PLEASE READ THIS!!  If you are like me, when you see a post that interests you, you scroll to the bottom to check out the ingredients to see if there is a chance you would ever make it.  If you do that with this post you will think to yourself, "Why the heck would I make something with ground beef, eggs, green olives, and raisins?"  Well, because I told you to.

I was first introduced to empanadas in college during a food production class.  Our big class project was to plan, prepare, and host a dinner with cuisine from an assigned country.  My group was assigned Argentina.  Apparently empanadas are like cheeseburgers there.  When I first saw what these were made of I thought there was no way they would be any good and I couldn't believe we were going to make these to feed people who were paying good money for our dinner.  But we tested them, and it turns out they are surprisingly delicious.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gingerbread Crispy Rice Treats

 It's the day before the day before Christmas!   Most people have been working frantically this past month to buy and wrap presents, put up Christmas trees, hang stockings, plan parties, and of course, do some holiday baking.  If you have put off your holiday baking and are now desperately searching for a festive treat you can make quickly, you have come to the right place.  Most of the holiday desserts I have posted so far have been a little time consuming, so I thought it was time to share an idea that is super simple and fast.

You may recall in October I shared two posts with pumpkin spiced marshmallows I found.  Well, the other day I found some gingerbread spiced marshmallows.  I love the delicious simplicity of crispy rice treats, and I knew I had to try a gingerbread version of them.  So I bought a bag, and got "baking." 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eggnog Truffles

Truffles are one of those things that always seemed too fancy to make at home.  There was no way a simple at-home cook like myself could pull off something like that.  But recently I have been seeing truffle recipes all over the place.  It seemed like it was time for me try it.  I thought if everyone else could do it, maybe I could too!  I still had some leftover eggnog that was dangerously close to expiring, and 'tis the season, so I gave it a shot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White Chocolate Chip Scones with Peppermint Glaze

The last two Mondays I have shared holiday inspired pancake recipes.  This Monday was the healthy Whole Grain Gingerbread Pancakes, and last Monday was the healthier-than-IHOP's Eggnog Pancakes.  If you wish to have a healthy Christmas morning breakfast, please stop reading.  If you roll your eyes at the idea of health food on Christmas, please continue reading.

Okay, now that we have weeded out the faint of heart, I am going to introduce you to white chocolate chip scones with peppermint glaze.  I have been dreaming of the combination of white chocolate and peppermint for some time, but I wasn't sure how I wanted to combine them.  I have made and received enough desserts to last me well into 2012, so I decided to try it out in scones.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Makeover Monday: Whole Wheat Gingerbread Pancakes

The countdown to Christmas is now 6 days.  There are so many things that make Christmas a unique time of year.  The tree, stockings, lights, candy canes, etc.  And how many other holidays have their own songs?  Not to mention that Christmas is maybe the only day of the year when people actually look forward to morning.  Because you probably aren't going to be munching on celery sticks all day, you might as well get your day off to a healthy start.  

Enter, whole wheat gingerbread pancakes.  I have been wanting to make gingerbread cookies since I finished my turkey and pumpkin pie.  But with only a few days remaining before Christmas, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.  So I decided to make a breakfast version.  I used whole wheat flour, Splenda, applesauce instead of oil, and ground flax instead of an egg.  The flax seed was mostly because I was out of eggs, but it does cut out about 40 calories and adds some omega-3 fatty acids.  These were really yummy and festive.  And I got my gingerbread fix without the calories of a cookie.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pot Roast with Cider-Maple Gravy

Ah, pot roast.  How comforting you are.  Gravy, how I loathe thee.  Gravy in general grosses me out.  It's thickened fat.  I don't think so.  But I had a roast that needed to be eaten, and I wanted to try something new.  I found this recipe in a handout from the Kansas Beef Council.  Although I don't usually touch gravy with a 10 foot pole, cider-maple gravy sparked my curiosity.  I like cider.  I like maple.  Maybe I would like cider-maple gravy. 

It was actually pretty good.  Don't tell anyone I said that.  I was a little afraid it would be too sweet, but it had the perfect hint of maple.  And it was super easy to make.  Like all pot roasts, it took some time, but almost no effort.  Don't tell anyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Maple Pecan Fudge

As I continue my holiday baking, I thought I would try making fudge.  Although I love traditional chocolate fudge with walnuts, I know that it requires precision, and if not done properly it won't turn out.  I have never made fudge before, so I thought for my first time I would try something a little more low pressure.  And because I currently have a food crush on anything maple flavored, I decided to make maple pecan fudge.

This is really easy to make, and it turned out great.  Maybe too great.  I want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And snacks.  They taste like the icing on a maple long john.  Not that I would know what that tastes like. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I recently received another batch of ginormous sweet potatoes from my neighbors.  Happy dance!  Like the last batch, these are too big to just stick in the oven and bake.  So I cut one of them up and roasted it.  As much as I love a good baked sweet potato with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, these slightly sweetened roasted sweet potatoes are now near and dear to my heart. 

This was an experiment gone right for me!  I have roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary and olive oil before, but I wanted to try something new this time.  Thanks to a bad experience as a child, I do not really like honey.  But I tolerate it baked in foods, and it complemented the natural sweetness of the sweet potato.  And the olive oil and salt gave it a nice sweet/savory/salty combo.  Yummy!  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Makeover Monday: Eggnog Pancakes with Butter Rum Flavored Syrup

Have you seen the commercials for IHOP's Holiday Hotcakes?  I have.  And I drool on my couch every time.  What really gets my salivary glands going is the eggnog hotcakes.  This is what their IHOP's eggnog pancakes consist of according to their website: "eggnog cream with cinnamon and nutmeg layered between sweet golden pancakes.  Crowned with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, a drizzle of butter rum flavored sauce and creamy whipped topping."  Uh, yum. 

Unfortunately, I have moved out of the big city of Topeka, Kansas and into a small town that doesn't even have a breakfast restaurant.  Yes, no breakfast restaurants of any kind.  Goose egg.  Zero.  None.  Not a pancake in sight!  So I knew if I was going to have eggnog pancakes, I was going to have to make them myself.  

Fortunately, I had some eggnog leftover from my Eggnog Spice Cake.  While I was snooping around IHOP's website, I made a stop in their nutrition section.  Bad idea.  It turns out that 4 of these too-good-to-be-true eggnog pancakes have 2,150 calories.  I knew I could never put a days worth of calories in my body for breakfast and look myself in the eye the next day.  But I really wanted some eggnog pancakes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For years I have made my husband a special birthday cake on his big day.  And I always made the kind of cake that I like: a white cake with colorful sprinkles, vanilla frosting, candles, etc.  My birthday cake for him was a pony shy of an 8-year-old girl's birthday party.  Then one year he informed me that he would prefer a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.  Oops. 

To my recollection, I had never had a red velvet cake.  So I didn't know what the big deal was or why he would rather have that than my traditional cake.  I didn't know how to make a red velvet cake, or really even what it was other than a red cake.  So I just bought a box or red velvet cake mix and a can of cream cheese frosting.  My husband liked it, but I was not that impressed. 

Fast forward to this week.  I'll give you a second.

Okay.  So I'm in the Christmas baking mood and trying to decide what my next treat will be.  I've made my favorite festive treats, Christmas Sugar Cookies and Cinnamon Almond Biscotti.  Now what?  Then it occurs to me to make something not traditionally associated with Christmas, but in a more festive manor.  I remember Christmas mornings as a child when my family made red and green colored waffles.  How about red velvet cupcakes with green colored cream cheese frosting?  Bingo!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bruschetta Minute Steaks

Believe it or not, somewhere in between cookies and cake, I do eat actual meals!  And I know those of you out there in internet land eat actual meals, too.  So at the request of my little sister, I will share one of my favorite meals with you:  Bruschetta Minute Steaks.

Minute steaks are famous for being the "steak" in chicken-fried steak.  When I first ventured out on my own, that was the only way I knew how to prepare them.  And honestly, I wasn't even very good at that.  So I set out to find a better way to prepare this budget-friendly piece of meat.  I found a recipe for Bruschetta Minute Steaks on Kraft's website (great recipe source!) and adapted it slightly to meet my needs.  This is a great quick and easy meal that is perfect for busy weeknights.  And it is delicious!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Words can't describe how much I adore Christmas sugar cookies.  Everyone knows this is the most wonderful time of the year and there are so many things that I love about Christmas.  I love that people are more giving, families get together, lights brighten the cold December air, and I can listen to old Christmas music shamelessly.  And I love making Christmas cookies.  Cookies are great any time of the year, but something about Christmas makes them special.  They are perfect for giving  and are part of so many family traditions.  I look forward to these all year! 

For these Christmas cookies, I used my Holiday Sugar Cookie recipe and Royal Icing (click on either to view the recipe!).  I made Christmas trees, stockings, bells, stars, and gingerbread men.  I think it is a good idea to keep the color scheme pretty simple.  The more colors you have, the more colors you have to mix and the more bowls, squeeze bottles, pastry bags, and tips you have to clean.  Yuck!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Health Tips: How To Cut 1,000 Christmas Party Calories (Without Starving)

Photo From
As the new year approaches, many Americans look forward to next year, when they will turn a new leaf and begin eating healthier.  This determination comes as they hop from party to party, filling up on fat and sipping on sugar.  Why not start eating better now?  Here are a few simple party food swaps you can make during the season to cut out over 1,000 calories each time you deck the halls.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cinnamon Almond Biscotti with Chocolate Glaze

 Because I grew up in a small town void of any kind of bakery and I'm about as Italian as a bierock, until a few years ago I couldn't tell you what biscotti was if my life depended on it.  Fortunately, it never did.  But I made my own biscotti for the the first time last year around Christmas and fell in love.  A crispy cookie made for dipping in a cup of hot coffee?  Yes, please!  

Biscotti is one of those things that looks so fancy it fools you into thinking it must be hard to make.  Wrong!  I was surprised at how easy these pretty cookies were to make.  I can't tell you how many times I have made something that looked really good in the recipe picture, only to look hideous when I made it.  This was not one of those recipes.  The first time I made these I wrapped them up and took them to work as gifts for my coworkers.  Everyone thought they came from a bakery.  And trust me, if I can make bakery-quality biscotti, you can too!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Makeover Monday: Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Spice Muffins

Baby, it's cold outside.  I can't put my finger on it, but when the weather outside gets frightful, spice muffins are so delightful.  Add the sweet combination of cranberry and orange, and there's not even a word for it.  All I can say is that I want it!  

On chilly evenings, my husband and I enjoy wrapping up in a cozy blanket, watching sitcoms, and sipping cups of hot tea.  I have been craving a coffee shop worthy treat to munch on that would be good with our hot tea.  The idea came to me that a spiced muffin with cranberry and orange would hit the spot.  I love it when I'm right!  These muffins are packed with warm flavors and just beg to be eaten with hot tea.  And because I gave them a healthy makeover, you can feel good about eating them any time of day.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Eggnog Spice Cake with Rum Buttercream Meringue Frosting

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I can shamelessly put myself in Christmas mode.  And eggnog might as well be the official drink of Christmas.  I love the idea of eggnog, but I don't like actually drinking it.  I'm a skim milk drinker, and eggnog is like drinking melted ice cream.  But when I saw a carton of the festive beverage at the grocery store this week, I couldn't help but buy it. 

Although I'm probably not going to sit down and sip a glass of the stuff, I love the flavors or eggnog.  So I set out to find a way to enjoy the taste without having to choke down the drink.  What I came up with was a standard spice cake, but with a few adjustments to make it more eggnog-y.  

I debated with myself for awhile about what kind of frosting to make.  I considered a powdered sugar and eggnog mix frosting, but decided on a meringue-style buttercream.  Instead of incorporating eggnog into the frosting, I used the frosting as an opportunity to increase the rum flavor.  The generous amount of butter in the frosting is similar to the richness of drinking a glass of eggnog, but I think it is yummier.  And I added a bit of nutmeg to the frosting to compliment the nutmeg found in eggnog.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Health Tips: Office Holiday Parties

Thanksgiving is over and if you are reading this, you apparently made it out alive.  I was able to spend Thanksgiving afternoon playing with my cousins boys (thanks for letting me borrow your kids, Jamie!) and Friday morning I was my mom's guest at her Zumba class.  So I hate myself a little less for the multiple slices of the chocolate cake with cheesecake filling and 2 inch thick fudge-like frosting I ate.  I miss you cake!

But Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the holiday challenges.  I have my first holiday office party this weekend.  I've been reading articles about tips to avoid overeating at holiday parties and I wanted to share a few ideas with you.  Some I thought were pretty creative and some are pretty standard, but worth sharing.