Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Treats

Every year we go to our friends house for a yummy Thanksgiving feast.  I am always in charge of bringing desserts.  The only requirements are that one of them is chocolate, works for me!  I usually try and do an apple one as well.  So here is the lineup for this year:

Decadent Chocolate Cheesecake (This one was AMAZING!)
Printable Version
*Note: This cheesecake needs to be chilled overnight so plan ahead! The good news is this cheesecake can be made all the way through the topping, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving. It is preferable to let the cheesecake stand at room temperature 1-2 hours before serving.
*Serves 8-10
9-ounce package of chocolate cookies (such as chocolate wafers, graham crackers or teddy grahams)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
Chocolate curls for garnish (I use this method)
For crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch-high sides (or use a 10-inch springform pan with 2-inch sides). Process the chocolate cookies in a food processor (or the old-fashioned way with a bag and a rolling pin) until they are finely ground. Transfer them to a small bowl and mix in the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom only of the prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Keep the oven heated at 350 degrees.
For filling:
Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Cool the chocolate until lukewarm but ensure that it is still warm enough to be pourable. In a large bowl (or with a stand mixer), blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour the cheesecake filling over the crust; smooth the top. Bake until the center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
For topping:
One hour before serving (or up to 3 days ahead of time), stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over the center of the cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until the topping is set, about 1 hour.
When ready to serve, release the springform pan sides. Transfer the cheesecake to a platter. Top with chocolate curls. It is preferable to let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving.
Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Caramel Pecan Apple Pie


  • 7 cups sliced peeled tart apples
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature


  • In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and vanilla. Combine the pecans, sugars, cinnamon and cornstarch; add to apple mixture and toss to coat. Pour caramel topping over bottom of pastry shell; top with apple mixture (shell will be full). Drizzle with butter.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, pecans and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling.
  • Bake at 350° for 55-65 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is browned. Immediately drizzle with caramel topping. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.
  • Recipe from Taste of Home

Pumpkin Layer Cake

Cake Layer
1 box yellow/golden butter cake mix (reserve 1 cup of the dry mix)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
2 eggs

Mix together and spread into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Pumpkin Pie Layer
2 eggs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 large can  (30 oz.) pumpkin pie mix

Mix together and pour over cake mix layer.

Crumble Topping Layer
1 cup reserved dry cake mix
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly.  Sprinkle over pumpkin layer.

Bake at 350* for about 40 minutes or until middle is firm and a toothpick comes out clean.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Poly Mesh Wreath How To

I see these wreaths for sale all over the Internet and in stores for ridiculous prices.  I can't believe people are charging $150 and more for these!  They are so simple to make, here is how:

21" wide roll of deco mesh
Deco flex tubing
Ribbon in a coordinating color (any size will work just depends on the effect you want)
Any decorations you want to add
24" wreath
Note: I like the wreath forms found at Mardi Gras Outlet with the wires already attached.  Saves you from cutting individual wires to wrap around a normal wreath.  They have great prices too!

1.  Begin by placing the end of the 21" poly mesh into one of the wires on the inner circle of the wreath form.  Twist the wire once to secure.

2.  Gather some of the poly mesh and "poof" to form your first bump.  The more fullness you want to your wreath the more poly mesh you will want.  Use the next set of wires on the inner circle of the wreath to secure down the poly mesh.  Twist once to secure.  For this particular wreath I did not want it very poofy so I only gathered about 3 inches.  For the red and white wreath at the very top of this blog it is a bit more full, I gathered about 6 inches of poly mesh for each of those poofs.

3.  Continue this process around the entire inner circle.  Try to keep your poofs as even as possible.  Once you reach the end cut the poly mesh off from the roll.  Secure the end into the original tie you started on.  And the inner circle is done!

4.  Now follow the same process around the outer circle of ties.  You will want to make these poofs a little bigger than the inside poofs.  Add a couple more inches to each bunch you gather on the outer circle.

4.  Once you make it all the way around secure down the end just as you did on the inner circle and you are finished with the poly mesh portion.

5.  Now add in the coordinating ribbon by securing it down in the twist ties.  

6.  Work your way around the entire wreath until you have made it to all of the ties.

7.  To add in the deco flex tubing make a loop with the first section of the string and secure into one of the twist ties.

8.  Work your way around the wreath by making loops in the tubing at each twist tie and securing.  In order to hide the deco flex tubing as you go from twist tie to twist tie go underneath the poofs which will ensure the extra tubing is not seen on the final wreath.  

9.  Work your way around the wreath until you have the deco flex tubing everywhere that you want it. For this wreath I did the deco flex tubing on both the outer and inner ring of ties.  In the red and white wreath I only did the tubing on the outer ring of ties. 

10.  Add any decorations to the wreath that you want.  I like the more simple wreaths with only a few decorations.  But there are also plenty of gorgeous wreaths that have tons of ornaments and such added on, so go crazy if you wish!

Hopefully this tutorial will save you some money from having to spend so much on the wreaths people sell!  I can't tell you how easy this was.  And quick to do!  This took me about 30 minutes per wreath.  I got both the red and white and green and white wreath done while Trey was napping.

Update:  Here is another tutorial I did for a different style of poly mesh wreath.  Click here

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roy turns the BIG 3-0!

He is first!  Yay!  Roy is out of his 20's before me!  Only by a month, but still!  I am 20 something and he is not and I enjoy rubbing that in!  Anyway, we had several friends meet us for dinner at one of our favorite spots, Mellow Mushroom.  Great pizza and all the guys are working on the beer club.  You have to get through all 70 beers they have on tap, eek!  Roy's favorite cake is german chocolate cake and I make it for him every year.  Well, this year I decided to do cupcakes instead because it is just easier to serve the 22 people that were coming to dinner a cupcake as opposed to trying the cut up the cake at the restaurant.  I think they turned out great!  Roy was a little sad there were not any leftovers to take home but you know what, we don't need leftovers at the house!

German Chocolate Cupcakes 

Makes 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mix, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and espresso dissolved in water.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before topping. Once cool, pipe outline of Chocolate Buttercream. Spoon Coconut Pecan Frosting in the center of each cupcake.

Coconut Pecan Frosting 
3 large egg yolks
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and brought to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 10 -15 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.

Stir in vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool completely. Frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before using.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 -6 tablespoons milk

Cream the butter on medium speed until it is very light in texture. Add the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and vanilla extract and mix on a low speed until the sugar and butter are blended, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase the speed to medium, with the mixer running, add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. 

Recipe from Baked Perfection

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake

Alright, so as promised the 2nd dessert for our work Thanksgiving lunch.  A caramel apple cheesecake!  I can't wait to give this one a taste at work.  I didn't want to do the normal boring apple pie and pumpkin pie but also didn't want to stray to far from the good 'ol favorites.  I thought this was a perfect choice to spice up the usual apple pie.  And the cookies from yesterday (here) were a great twist on pumpkin pie.  Hopefully my co-workers agree :)
Sorry for the poor quality picture.  I ahd to take it at work with my phone since I waited to add the whip cream to the top until the last minute.

Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake
For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½-¾ cup caramel
1 cup chopped pecans
For the apple filling:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the cheesecake:
8 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the topping:
¾ cup heavy cream
3-4 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
¼-½ cup caramel
Chopped pecans
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.  Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans.  Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.
To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling.  Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Set aside.
Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F.  To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.   Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To serve, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (being careful not to overbeat.)  Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer.  Top with dollops of caramel sauce and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.  Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans if desired.  Slice with a long, thin knife to serve.

Recipe found on Annie's Eats

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies With Cream Cheese Icing

I am not normally a fan of pumpkin flavored things but these are GOOD!  I think it's the cream cheese icing that gets me.  The cookies are moist and the icing is a perfect complement.  These are headed to work for our Thanksgiving luncheon.  Yes, it is early!  But we always do it before everyone starts taking vacation so that we can have max participation.  I have one more dessert to make for the luncheon, a caramel apple pecan cheesecake.  Mmmm!  More to come on that later..... 

Pumpkin Cookies
Yield: 24-36 Cookies depending on how big you make them.  I got 36 with mine.
1 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup unsalted butter; softened
2 cups white sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin (solid; not pie mix)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1. Cream shortening, butter, white sugar and pumpkin. Add eggs and mix well.
2. Sift together the baking soda, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
3. Drop from spoon to cookie sheet. The dough will be kind of sticky, you won't be able to make balls like normal cookie dough.
4. Bake 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Could take longer if you have a slow oven like mine!  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract will also work)
2 tablespoons milk
1. Mix the cream cheese with the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and milk in a bowl.
2. Heat in a microwave for 15 seconds.
3. Drizzle spoonfuls over the cooled cookies and smooth with the back of a spoon or a spatula.
Recipe originally found on My Baking Addiction

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mornings are not my friend!

I am not much of a morning person, never have been!  I thought once I had a real job that I had to be to by 7 each morning I would get used to waking up early.  7.5 years later and NOPE did not happen!  It is an ongoing battle with the snooze button every morning.  But, knowing that I get to go in and get this sweet little face each morning makes it a little bit easier.  He always wakes up happy which makes things so much easier!  And I usually have to wake him up during the week because he likes to sleep in.  Thank goodness for that on the weekends!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A well costumed little guy!

With it being Trey's first Halloween I of course had to buy all the cute little onesies I saw while out shopping!  And then of course had to take pictures of them all.  So here it is, Trey's line-up of Halloween outfits topped off by his actual costume of course!

We begin with the typical "My First Halloween" onesie.

And then the pumpkin face onesie

I think this one was one of my favorites.  Mummy sure does love Trey!

And then we have the skeleton jammies with candy in the belly, so cute!  Trey's little buddy Oliver had matching ones.  It is so funny to watch Trey interact with Oliver right now.  It is going to be fun watching these two grow up!  By the time we got home from playing with Oliver Trey was PASSED out!

Here is the real deal!  The actual Halloween costume.  I loved this cute little lion outfit I found online.  It was a little tough to get a picture of Trey though!  He kept staring up at his main or down at his big paws.  These are the best I got from my attempts!