Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Crispy Rice Treats Part 2: Maple Spiced Cheesecake Stuffed Pumpkins

Halloween bonus time!  You may remember last week I posted these Pumpkin Spiced Crispy Rice Treats.  They were so good, I had to buy another bag and make more goodies.  This time I made them into pumpkins, stuffed with a no-bake maple spiced cheesecake.  You can consider this your Halloween treat from me!

These were super easy to make.  Both the cheesecake and the crispy rice treats come together in just minutes.  I allowed both to cool for about 30 minutes, then cut the treats into squares, flattened them, slapped on some cheesecake, and rolled the treat around the cheesecake.  It helps to wet your hands first.  I used chocolate chips to make a quick face, but you could use royal icing if you want to make a fancy face.  I had a little cheesecake leftover.  It found it's way onto a graham cracker and into my mouth!  Yum!

No-Bake Maple Spiced Cheesecake
8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup lite whipped cream
Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, maple extract, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.  Fold in whipped cream.  Refrigerate to set.

Pumpkin Spiced Crispy Rice Treats
1/4 cup margarine
1 bag (10 oz) Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows
6 cups crisp rice cereal
Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.
Microwave margarine in large microwavable bowl on high 45 seconds or until melted.  Add marshmallows and toss to coat.  Microwave 1 1/2 minutes or until marshmallows are melted, stirring after 45 seconds.
Add cereal, mix well.  Press cereal mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan and let cool.

Recipe adapted slightly from Kraft Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows

Makeover Monday: Pumpkin Scones with Maple Spice Glaze

Happy Halloween!  If you haven't already, I would encourage you to look at my post on Having a Healthier Halloween.
Now, onto today's makeover!  I am continuing with my pumpkin obsession.  But that seems appropriate given the holiday today.  Last weekend I had some leftover pumpkin and a craving for a tasty breakfast treat.  So I made pumpkin scones.  I will confess that I had my first scone ever about a year ago, and this is only the second time I have made them myself.  But since I had my first one I have been gathering various scone recipes and I imagine they will become a regular in my weekend rotation.  They are pretty easy to put together and oh-so-yummy!

So what makes these particular scones a Makeover Monday recipe?  As usual, just a few simple changes transformed these scones from something I would almost consider a dessert into a hearty breakfast treat I could feel good about eating.  Here are my changes:
  • I used 3/4 whole wheat flour, and 1/4 all purpose flour.  That added 20 grams of fiber!
  • I used Spenda instead of sugar, which saved about 300 calories.
  • I used skim milk instead of half-and-half.  There was only 3 Tbsp of half-and-half in the original recipe, so this only cut out 45 calories.  But just so you know, you don't have to buy a container of half-and-half just to make these!
  • The original recipe had both a plain glaze, and a spiced glaze over the scones.  I thought double glazing seemed excessive so I got rid of the plain glaze.  I also made the spiced glazed a maple spiced glaze.  But just because I felt like it!  Using only one glaze save about 400 calories.  My husband and I both agreed that one glaze was plenty.
  • You might note that my recipe includes butter.  Because this dough requires rolling out, I didn't want to mess with the butter.  See Food Science 101: Margarine vs Butter for more information on this topic.
 So, let's make some scones!  Start by mixing the dry ingredients.  I love the spices!
Then whisk together the wet ingredients.
Add the butter to the dry ingredients.
And cut in the butter until it is combined.
Now mix in the pumpkin mixture until dough just sticks together and spread out into a rectangle.
Cut into individual scones.  A pizza cutter works great for this!  The directions say to make your rectangle about three times longer than it is wide.  I didn't really pay attention to that.  Then when I cut the scones I realized they weren't all the same size and shape.  I am sure you will do better than me.  But if you don't, I assure you they will taste just as good!
Then just move your scones to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet to bake them.  I sprinkled some oatmeal on my scones just for decoration.  I'm fancy like that!
You'll want to brew some coffee at this point because these babies are delicious with a hot cup of coffee.  Ah, fall!
To make the glaze simply whisk together all the ingredient until they are smooth.  If it is too thick (which mine was) continue adding water until it is the consistency you want.
As you can see in the picture at the top, I initially drizzled the glaze over each scone.  Then I had a ton of glaze leftover so I went ahead and just covered the scones with glaze.  Yum! 

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Spiced Glaze
For the scones:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Splenda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
6 Tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp skim milk
1 large egg
For the Maple Spiced Glaze:
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 Tbsp light maple flavored pancake syrup
2 Tbsp water (plus more if needed)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine flours, Splenda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger in a large bowl or food processor.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, and egg.  Set aside.
Using food processor or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and form the dough into a ball.  
Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1" thick rectangle about 3 times as long as wide.  Use a large knife or pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions.  Cut each of the portions in an x pattern (4 pieces) so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown.  Place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the glaze: Whisk all the ingredients for the glaze until smooth.  Spread glaze over the scones when the scones are cooled.  

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Okay, this the last post of my cookie decorating series...for now.  A few weeks ago while I was doing some shopping, I saw this canister of Halloween themed cookie cutters and I had to have them.  

With Halloween approaching this week, I finally got around to making my cookies.  I made both my favorite Holiday Sugar Cookies and I experimented with Chocolate Sugar Cookies.  To decorate the cookies, I used Royal Icing.  To keep things simple, I used cookie cutters that would require similar colors.  I used the Chocolate Sugar Cookies to make black cats, bats, and spider webs.  I used the Holiday Sugar Cookies to make tombstones, ghosts, and candy corns.  

Disclaimer:  Although I am a veteran sugar cookie maker, I am a rookie at cookie decorating with royal icing.  I will take you through the steps I took in making my Halloween-themed cookies.  I think they turned out pretty good considering my experience, but they are by no means perfect!  

Since the icing starts out a pretty, pure white, I did the white outlining first on the candy corn, ghosts, and spider webs. 
To do the outline, put the icing in a pastry bag.  I used a #3 tip.
Then to flood, thin the icing and pour into a squeeze bottle.
When the outline is dry, squeeze a generous amount of icing onto your outlined cookies.   The white flood icing is used for the ghosts and tips of the candy corn. Use a toothpick to spread the icing to the edges of the cookie.  Your outline holds in the thinned icing.
Separate some of the original stiff icing and dye it black.  Put in a clean pastry bag and outline the tombstones, cats, and bats.
Next make thin black and grey icing.  Fill the tombstones with the grey, and the cats, spider webs, and bats with black.
To make the spider web, while the flood icing is still wet, take the thin white icing in the squeeze bottle and make two circles.
Using a toothpick, start in the center and pull icing to the edge of the cookie.
Now make a thin orange and yellow icing.  Fill in the candy corns.  On the picture below, the yellow on the left wasn't quite thin enough so it didn't spread well.  I added a little more water and continued.  The one of the right looks much nicer!
Allow all of the flooded cookies to dry before doing any detail work.  I used the stiff black icing in the pastry bag to make eyes and a mouth for the ghosts.
For the bats, I used the stiff white icing still in the pastry bag to make little eyes.  I also made faces for the cats.
To write on the tombstones, I used the stiff black icing, but switched the tip to a #1 to allow for more control.
After the spider webs had dried, I added a spider.  Again I used the stiff black icing.  I used a #12 tip to make the body of the spider, then put the #1 tip back on to draw the legs.
And those are my Halloween sugar cookies!  They were almost too cute to eat.  Almost! 

Royal Icing

I think by now I have documented enough that I have loved making sugar cookies for holidays since I was a kid.  Now I must admit that the cookies we made were nothing fancy.  I'm talking about opening a can of frosting, adding some food coloring, grabbing a knife, spoon, or spatula, spreading it on the cookies, and topping with some sprinkles.  They seemed pretty fancy at the time.  And in my defense, we made dozens and dozens of cookies, and they were being decorated by three kids with short attention spans.  

So when I saw cookies that people such as Bridget from Bake at 350 make, I was blown away.  It was clear that she was not using frosting from a can.  While I was still living in the sprawling metropolis of Topeka, Kansas I took a cookie decorating class where I was introduced to royal icing.  This was a cookie decorating epiphany for me.  

I will say upfront that royal icing is not as tasty as the frosting of my childhood.  But you can do so much more with it.  That is just another reason I stand by my mom's Holiday Sugar Cookies.  They have enough flavor on their own that it doesn't matter that the icing isn't super flavorful.  I am going to share with you the recipe for royal icing that was given to me at the class I went to.  It's pretty easy to make, so let's get to it!

Start by combining meringue powder water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat until it is nice and foamy.  

Sift the powdered sugar to remove the lumps.  You don't want lumpy icing!  Add the powdered sugar and beat on low just to combine.

Add corn syrup and a clear extract.  The extract is your chance to add some flavor to the icing.  Almond is my favorite.  The smell of almond extract makes me weak in the knees, but you can use whatever floats your boat.

Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, or until the icing is shiny and stiff-peak consistency.  This is what it should look like: 
Note that I was holding this up in the air, and it maintained its shape.  This stiff icing can be used for piping outlines.  I will talk more about the decorating process in a later post, but to fill in the cookies, the icing needs to be thinned.  To thin the icing, add additional water, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.  Here is what thin icing looks like:
Royal icing dries easily, so make sure to keep it covered when you are not using it.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.  If it hardens, add some water.  If you have thin icing and need to thicken it, add more powdered sugar.

Royal Icing
1/4 cup meringue powder
1/2 cup water, minus 2 Tbsp
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp clear extract
1 Tbsp corn syrup
Beat water and meringue powder in bowl of electric mixer until foamy.  Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined.  Add the extract and corn syrup.  Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes or until icing reaches stiff-peak consistency.  
To thin icing for flooding, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Add powdered sugar to thicken if needed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

If you asked me what my favorite cookie is, I would probably say sugar cookies.  And it's not just for their taste, but the nostalgia of baking them on holidays, and the fact that we only made them on holidays so they were like a special treat.  If you asked my husband what his least favorite cookie is, I think he might just say sugar cookies.  That is why I was so happy when I found this recipe for Chocolate Sugar Cookies.  I thought it would be a way for us to meet in the middle.  I get the experience of baking and decorating my sugar cookies, and my husband get chocolate.  Everybody wins!  

So I made these cookies for Halloween, along with my standard Holiday Sugar Cookies.  I have always loved my good old go-to sugar cookies, but this chocolate version is definitely competing for top spot in my heart.  These are especially good for Halloween cookies because they turn out really dark and are perfect for making cookies that you would decorate in black.  I used the chocolate cookies for my bats, black cats, and spider webs.  

The one thing I changed when preparing this recipe was that I used natural cocoa instead of the Dutch process cocoa powder that was called for since I didn't have any.  I read online that to use natural cocoa instead of Dutch you should add baking soda.  So I added about 1/4 tsp.  These cookies actually came out a little fluffy which made them harder to decorate.  I think next time I make them I will either buy some Dutch cocoa or try more like 1/8 tsp baking soda.

Although the ingredients are a little different, the process of making these cookies is the same as the Holiday Sugar Cookies I previously posted.  So I will refer you to that page if you would like to see the step-by-step.  One thing I will recommend for this recipe is to use cocoa powder when rolling out the dough instead of flour.  That way your black cookies stay black!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Blend in the egg and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated and no streaks remain.  Form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out into desired shape with cookie cutters and place cookies on baking sheet.  
Bake 10-12 minutes, just until set.  Let cool completely before decorating.
This recipe makes about 1 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

Recipe from Annie's Eats

Holiday Sugar Cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was making sugar cookies as a family.  I mean any holiday.  We would take any excuse to make, cut, bake, and decorate dozens of delicious sugar cookies.  Although making decorated sugar cookies can be time consuming, it is worth every minute when you step back and admire your creations.  And then you get to eat them.  Okay, I say that as if I don't sneak a few along the way--which I do!

There are a ton of sugar cookie recipes floating around and everyone swears by their own recipe.  The recipe I use is the same recipe we used making cookies as kids.  My mom gave it to me when I left the nest, but I think it is from an old church cookbook.  And like everyone else, I swear by it!  

The dough itself is pretty easy to make and doesn't take long.  I will dedicate this post to making, cutting, and baking these cookies.  The decorating will come in another post. 

To start off, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  I have given up on sifters.  Life's too short to clean them.  So instead I use a fine mesh strainer.  I just shake it back and forth and tap it against my hand.
Then beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract.  The almond extract makes these cookies extra yummy!
Then gradually add the dry ingredients until the dough is well combined and smooth.  Don't beat it to death!  The more you handle this dough, the less yummy it will be.
Divide the dough into 2 discs and refrigerate at least one hour until firm.  We always made the dough one day, and baked the cookies the next.  

When you are ready to roll your dough, let it stand at room temperature about 10 minutes to soften slightly.  Lightly flour your work surface.  I like to place the dough between two layers of wax paper to make less of a mess, but it still helps to flour it.  
Roll the dough, one disc at a time, to 1/4 inch thickness.  Dough rolled too thin will result in thin, crunchy cookies.  Dough rolled too thick will be too puffy, and harder to decorate.  When you have rolled out one disc, return it to the refrigerator to cool.  Then roll out the other disc, return it to the refrigerator, and start cutting out of the first disc.  

To cut the dough, first dip cookie cutters in flour to prevent sticking.  Cut shapes as close together as possible, and transfer cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
Using parchment paper instead of baking spray is not only less messy, but the baking spray can cause your cookies to be flat. 
Take the remaining scraps and form them into a ball.  Flatten with your hands, then roll as you did with the original discs.  Cut more cookies!  If you have to roll out the scraps more than twice, I say just eat them!  Not only is this cookie dough delicious, but dough that is rolled too many times becomes tough.

When you have a baking sheet ready to go, place in preheated 325 degree oven and bake for 17-19 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden.  I recommend rotating the cookies halfway through the baking time to ensure they are cooked evenly.  It is really important not to over bake sugar cookies.  Over baked cookies loose their moisture become hard and crunchy.  Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating.

Holiday Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
Sift together and reserve flour, salt, and  baking powder.  
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and almond, beat to combine.
Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth.  Divide dough into two disks.
Chill dough one hour, or until firm.
Lightly flour work surface and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.  Cut cookies and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. 
Bake at 325 degrees for 17-19 minutes, or until edges are just turning golden.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.
This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Best Ever Apple Crisp

 Fruit desserts are always a hit with me.  I always feel a little better about having a dessert that has fruit in it.  It feels less wrong.  And I've always thought that I liked apple crisp.  Then I read an article from Cook's Illustrated about improving standard apple crisp.  I thought it was silly.  Apple crisp is already good!  But the folks up at Cook's Illustrated seem to know what they're doing, and I had a bag of apples that needed to be used so I thought I would give this new recipe a try.  They were right.  This recipe has a few extra steps, but it makes every other apple crisp I have made seem like mushy apple junk.  Here are the few extra steps that will take standard apple crisp to best ever apple crisp!

First, simmer 1 cup of apple cider and let it reduce until there is only 1/2 cup left.  This concentrates the apple flavor.  
 The other additional step is to coat the apple slices with cinnamon and sugar, then saute the apples before baking.  This caramelizes the apples, adds more flavor, and helps ensure that they are evenly cooked. 

This recipe instructs you to simmer the apple cider and saute the apples in an ovenproof skillet, then add the topping over the apples and bake right in the skillet.  If you don't have an ovenproof skillet just transfer the apples to an ovenproof dish after mixing with the cider.  Then cover with topping and bake as directed.

If you've never been a big fan of apple crisp but want to give it another try, this is the recipe for you!  I recommend serving warm.  And it is divine with a scoop of ice cream!  If you are anything like me, you will probably eat more of this than you intended to.  But at least it has fruit!

Best Ever Apple Crisp
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans, chopped fine
3/4 cup oats (can use old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" thick wedges (suggested apple varieties: Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, or Braeburn)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
For the topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine flour, pecans, oats, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl.  Stir in butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and crumbly.  Set aside while preparing fruit filling.
For the filling: Toss apples, sugar, and cinnamon together in large bowl; set aside.  
Bring cider to simmer in 12 inch oven safe skillet over medium heat; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. 
Transfer reduced apple cider to bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice and set aside.
Heat butter in now empty skillet over medium heat.  When foaming subsides, add apple mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until apples begin to soften and become translucent, 12-14 minutes.  Do not fully cook apples.  Remove pan from heat and gently stir in cider mixture until apples are coated.
Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit, breaking up any large chunks.  Place skillet on baking sheet and bake until fruit is tender and topping is deep golden brown, 15-20 minutes.  Cool on wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes, and serve.

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2010

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Having a Healthier Halloween

In case you haven't heard, Halloween is coming up.  That means costumes, Jack-o-lanterns, and candy, candy, candy.  If you are trying to lose weight, or just live a healthier lifestyle, this can seem like a huge roadblock.  Fortunately, it doesn't have to be.  Here are a few tips to help you have healthier Halloween.
Photo from Mars chocolate.
1.  Don't buy your favorite candy to hand out.  As a former trick-or-treater, I am not advising that you give out Cherry Mash (no offense to anyone who might actually like Cherry Mash, if you're out there).  But if you have a bag of that one candy you can't resist sitting around the house, you are setting yourself up for disaster!

2.  Don't buy your Halloween candy Labor Day weekend.  This is another resisting candy technique.  The longer the candy sits in your house before the big night, the more likely you will be to dig in.  This is one time when procrastination pays off!

3.  Don't give out candy. If you don't want candy in your house at all, give out something else.  Pick out something such as toys or sugar free gum.  I actually saw little individual bags of baby carrots called "scarrots" at the store this morning.  Perfect!

4.  Limit the trick-or-treating.  If you are taking your kiddos out to show off their costumes, limit the number of houses you visit.  The more stops you make, the more candy you end up with.

5.  Don't deny thyself.  Nothing will make you want candy more than telling yourself you can't have any.  A small indulgence won't ruin your day.  Determining that you won't eat any candy and then eating a whole bag of fun size Snickers will.  

6.  Keep it small.  The saving grace of Halloween candy is its small size.  I did some research on the calories in fun size or snack size candies thinking I would come up with a brilliant revelation of what candy you should and shouldn't eat.  But it turns out they are all pretty similar.  Most chocolates were between 70-90 calories.  For most people, an extra 30 minutes of walking will burn off those few extra calories. 

7.  Choose dark chocolate.  While it's not the same as munching on a celery stick, dark chocolate is actually a good source of antioxidants.  Milk chocolate has some, but the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it has.
Photo from Hersey's
8.  Share.  If you overestimated your candy needs, or your aforementioned kiddo hit up everyone in town and you end up with more candy than you know what to do with, share!  Your coworkers and bathroom scale will thank you.

I hope these tips help you through the holiday.  Do any of you have other ideas to share?

Pumpkin Spiced Crispy Rice Treats

I'm not usually an impulse shopper.  But the other day I was at the grocery store buying some baking goodies and I saw a bag of Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows.  I had to have them.  After making my purchase, I spent hours brainstorming what kind of tasty fall treat I was going to make with these festive marshmallows.  But I couldn't really come up with anything that sounded better than the recipe on the bag for your basic crispy rice treats, but pumpkin spice style. 
So I made them.  They were good as is, but I decided to try them with some maple cream cheese frosting.  The frosting took them from good to great.  After eating a few, I was inspired with some ideas for variations.  So I might just be making a Part 2 of this post.  If you like crispy rice treats and you are obsessed with pumpkin, (like me) buy a bag and give it a try.  These are easy and delicious!

Pumpkin Spiced Crispy Rice Treats
1/4 cup margarine
1 bag (10 oz) Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows
6 cups crisp rice cereal
Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.
Microwave margarine in large microwavable bowl on high 45 seconds or until melted.  Add marshmallows and toss to coat.  Microwave 1 1/2 minutes or until marshmallows are melted, stirring after 45 seconds.
Add cereal, mix well.  Press cereal mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan and let cool.
Cut out with pumpkin shaped cookie cutter.  Top with maple cream cheese frosting and garnish with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves, if desired.

Recipe adapted slightly from Kraft Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz light cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp light maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk or beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add syrup and vanilla.  If texture is too thick, add water, 1 Tbsp at a time.

Recipe adapted from Cooking for Seven