Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars

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DessertMashUpsHave you ever heard of a “Dessert Mash-Up”? If you haven’t, it’s simply a yummy creation of two different desserts combined into one! It’s also the name of a new cookbook that has recipes like Blueberry Muffin Waffles, Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast, Chocolate Cheesecake Sandwich Cookies, Snickers Cake Roll, Almond Joy Dip, and lots more. There’s also great color photos of the recipes that will make you want to start baking right away! Written by Dorothy Kern, author of the blog Crazy for Crust, the book has recipe sections for…

  • Breakfast
  • Candy
  • Cookies, Brownies, and Bars
  • Pie;
  • Cake and Cheesecake
  • Sweet Dips
  • Holiday Recipes.

There are so many yummy recipes I found in my review copy of Dessert Mash-Ups, it was hard to decide what to make! Since it’s autumn, I thought the Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars would be the perfect thing to try. I am a big fan of Magic Bars but never would have thought of adding a pumpkin pie flavor to them–what a great idea! The recipe in the book makes a 9 x 9″ pan of bars–I decided to double the recipe and make a 9 x 13″ pan instead. I had a feeling I would like these so much, I’d want a bigger batch! :) The pumpkin flavor in these bars is pretty subtle–they have more of a gingery, caramel flavor combined with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate chips in the middle. All-in-all, these are very rich and super yummy–just the thing for satisfying your autumn sweet tooth! :)

PUMPKIN PIE MAGIC BARS from Dessert Mash-Ups

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan (I doubled the original recipe; halve these amounts for a 9 x 9″ pan)

  • 48 to 50 gingersnap cookies
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons (or 1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups (one 12-ounce package) white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk (or you can use a 14-ounce can, which is a little more than 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray or line with foil and spray with cooking spray for easy cleanup.

Grind the gingersnaps to a fine crumb in a food processor; you should have about 3 cups of crumbs. Place cookie crumbs in a medium bowl and mix with the sugar and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the white chocolate chips, pecans, coconut, and toffee bits over the top of the crust.

Whisk together the pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl or measuring cup and pour over the top of the bars. The mixture will just barely cover; use a spatula to carefully spread it to the edges.

Bake for 29 to 35 minutes, until the edges have started to brown. Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Tip: Different brands of sweetened condensed milk come in different thicknesses. If it’s too thick to be pourable, you can transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and heat it on high for 10 to 20 seconds until it becomes a little thinner.

These bars are definitely a treat–the sweetened condensed milk and the toffee bits combine to make a yummy caramel-like topping that really tastes great with the gingery crust! I think I’m going to have to try more of these dessert mash-up ideas–have you made any yourself?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy and Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine’s Corner.

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Easy Pantry Minestrone from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now-and a Giveaway!

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51NVSI2WbxLLike so many people I know, I’m trying to eat a little healthier during this new year. So when I heard about the new cookbook, Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, I was definitely interested in reviewing it! Not only did I receive a review copy, the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is also providing a giveaway copy! I’ll tell you a little about the book and share a recipe from it with you, and then be sure to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment–see the end of this post for details on how to win!

This cookbook has more than 300 new recipes and lots of color photos. There’s a wonderful variety of great-sounding recipes to choose from–meals and desserts that your whole family can enjoy. And they look easy to prepare, too. All recipes include nutritional information and the Weight Watcher PointsPlus® values so those of you in Weight Watchers can easily keep track of your points. Even if you’re not in Weight Watches, though, I’m sure these recipes would appeal to any of you who are wanting to eat lighter and healthier.

The book starts out with tips and helpful information on good nutrition, the well-stocked pantry, must-have kitchen tools, food safety, and choosing and preparing fresh fruits and veggies. Then you’ll find recipes organized in the following chapters: Breakfasts and Brunches; Lunches; Appetizers and Snacks; Main Dishes–Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Main Dishes–Poultry; Main Dishes–Seafood; Main Dishes-Vegetarian; 20-Minute Main Dishes; Side Dishes; and Sweets. So there’s lots to choose from! Here are some recipes I’d like to try…

  • Coconut-Almond French Toast with Tropical Fruit
  • Asian Burgers with Honey-Lime Slaw
  • Spinach and Endive Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Italian Beef and Mushroom Meat Loaf
  • Brown Sugar-Dijon Glazed Ham with Sweet Potatoes
  • Maple-Glazed Grilled Chicken
  • Pan-seared Tuna with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
  • Warm Mozzarella and Tomato Flatbreads
  • Gingery Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
  • Garlicky Spinach and Fontina Pizza
  • Chocolate Brownie Ice-Cream Sandwiches

For this post, I decided to try the Easy Pantry Minestrone from the Vegetarian section, since I had been wanting to make minestrone this winter. It’s a good, healthy soup with lots of veggies (carrots, onion, celery, zucchini), red beans, and chickpeas. Dried basil also flavors the soup, and you serve it with a teaspoon-size dollop of pre-made refrigerated pesto which also adds nicely to the flavor!

EASY PANTRY MINESTRONE from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup whole wheat macaroni or other small pasta (uncooked)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons refrigerated basil pesto

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add broth, kidney beans, chickpeas, macaroni, and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and zucchini and simmer until pasta and vegetables are very tender, 10 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls and top each with 1 teaspoon pesto.

PER SERVING (1 bowl): 307 Cal, 6 g Total Fat, Og Trans Fat, 1 mg Chol, 876 mg Sod, 53 g Carb, 10 g Fib, 14 g Prot, 120 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 8

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I really like the dollop of pesto–it gives the soup an extra little zing of flavor when you stir it in!

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations to commentor #8, Aline, for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Wednesday, January 22, at 10 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Thursday evening, January 23. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite healthy dish is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it just means I need to click on it to approve it before it’s visible–I do this because of spam comments that sometimes come through!

Edamame Snap Pea Salad from The Lemonade Cookbook and a Giveaway!

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the-lemonade-cookbook-southern-california-comfort-foodIn 2007, Chef Alan Jackson opened what is now L.A.’s favorite modern cafeteria–Lemonade, serving up healthy comfort food Southern California-style. This popular eatery has 10 locations and is still growing. Like me, if you didn’t live in Southern California, you were missing out…until now. Chef Jackson and coauthor JoAnn Cianciulli have come out with The Lemonade Cookbook (hardcover, St. Martin’s Press), filled with 120 unique, easy-to-make, tasty recipes and lots of great full-color photos of many of these dishes.

I received a review copy from the publisher, plus a copy to give away to one of you! See the end of this post for details on how to win this book! I’ll share a little more about it here, along with a recipe I made.

In The Lemonade Cookbook, there are recipes for salads, veggie sides, unique sandwiches, soups and stews, and desserts. Some of the recipes include:

  • Fingerling Potatoes with Dill and Lemon-Saffron Vinaigrette
  • Heirloom Tomato, Crushed Basil, Fleur de Sel Salad
  • Greek-Marinated Chicken with Tzatsiki
  • Buttermilk-Baked Chicken
  • Citrus-Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
  • BBQ Brisket
  • Turkey with Dried Cranberry and Sage Gravy
  • Caesar Club (with Turkey, Ham, and Tomato)
  • Egg Salad Sandwich with Bacon and Heirloom Tomato
  • Creamed Cauliflower Soup
  • Mac ‘N Cheese
  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Lemon Drop Cupcakes
  • Caramel-Butterscotch Pudding

So you see, there’s quite a variety of recipes to try! And there’s even a chapter of recipes featuring their popular lemonade concoctions including Peach Ginger, Pear Basil, Cantaloupe Sage, and Blueberry Mint!

I decided to make one of the veggie salads, Edamame Snap Pea Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette, which was wonderful! I don’t know of many ways to serve edamame, but this is a great one! It’s easy to make and very healthy! It’s a slightly crunchy, tangy salad mix of edamame and sugar snap peas, and has a great Sesame Vinaigrette mixed in. If you aren’t familiar with edamame, it’s another word for green soybeans-it’s best to use non-GMO edamame. Here’s the recipe so you can try it out!

EDAMAME SNAP PEA SALAD WITH SESAME VINAIGRETTE from The Lemonade Cookbook

Makes 4 cups

This lean green edamame and snap pea dish adds just the right crunch, while sesame, shallot, and chive add another level of texture by coating the vegetables. The best part about this dish is it’s so simple to whip up.

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas (2 cups), ends trimmed
  • 2 cups shelled edamame (green soybeans), frozen, thawed, and cooked
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (I just used regular sesame seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.

Blanch the snap peas for only about 2 minutes; they become tender very quickly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the snap peas from the water and plunge into the ice bath to “shock” them, i.e., to stop the cooking process and cool them down right away. This procedure also sets the vibrant green color of the peas. Drain the snap peas in a colander.

Put the blanched snap peas in a mixing bowl. Add the edamame, shallot, chives, and vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, salt, and pepper, tossing well. Serve chilled.

SESAME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, mustard, soy sauce, canola and sesame oils; season with pepper. Whisk or shake to blend. Keep any left-over vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 1 cup.

the-lemonade-cookbook-southern-california-comfort-foodThe Giveaway Is Now Closed!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Lemonade Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 23, at 11 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 24. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of side dish is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

This is a great book for anyone who loves trying unique recipes and using fresh, healthy ingredients! It would also make a wonderful gift! :)

Oatmeal Maple Bread from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day–and a Giveaway!

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You’ve probably heard about the bestselling book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, first published back in 2007. Because of its popularity, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and NewArtisanBreadZoe Francois have completely revised and updated their original book that revolutionized bread-making. Their new book,  The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was just released on October 22. The publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, sent me a review copy, and I’m happy to say they are providing a copy for me to give away! They will send the giveaway copy directly to the winner, so see the end of the post for details on how to win this book! First, I’ll tell you more about the book and the recipe I made from it.

The New Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day is completely revised and updated with forty new full-color images, one hundred black-and-white how-to photos, an expanded “Tips and Techniques” section, a gluten-free chapter, and more than 30 new recipes for homemade breads and sweets, including…

  • Gluten-free Cheesy Breadsticks, Pizza, Baguette and Sweeet Brioche
  • Beer-Cheese and Crock-Pot Bread
  • Pretzel Buns
  • Apple-Stuffed French Toast
  • Panini

I decided to try the recipe for Oatmeal Maple Bread–that just sounded so good and healthy! I definitely am a novice bread maker, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’m happy to say it turned out wonderfully! The bread has a great texture and rises nicely, and pure maple syrup gives it a delicious, slightly sweet taste. This recipe makes 2 loaves. I brought some of the bread in to work for my coworkers to sample and everyone loved it! I hope you get a chance to try the recipe out!

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OATMEAL MAPLE BREAD from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″ loaves

A note from the book: This high-fiber loaf is lightly sweetened with maple syrup and tastes great cut into thick slices and then slathered with butter (and marmalade)…. It also makes a great sandwich with smoked turkey and cheese.

  • 2 3/4 cups (625 grams) lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon (10 grams) Granulated yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons (17 to 25 grams) Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon (170 grams) Pure Maple Syrup (the 1 Tablespoon is for brushing on top of the loaf right before baking)
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pans (I used olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup (55 grams) Wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups (140 grams) Old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup (130 grams) Whole wheat flour or White Whole wheat flour (I used White whole wheat)
  • 4 cups (570 grams) All-purpose flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
  1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water, the 3/4 cup maple syrup, and the oil in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 7 days.
  5. On baking day, grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pans. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and divide dough in half. Dust each dough half with more flour and quickly shape each of them, one at a time, into a ball by stretching the surface of each piece of dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
  6. Elongate each ball of dough to form an oval loaf and place into the prepared pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 90 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. A baking stone is not required, and omitting it shortens the preheat.
  8. Using a pastry brush, brush the top crusts with the remaining 1 Tablespoon maple syrup (use 1/2 Tablespoon on the top of each loaf).
  9. Place the loaves on a rack near the center of the oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until browned and firm (my baking time was 50 minutes). Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.
  10. Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.

I let my loaves cool before slicing one of them and put the other in the freezer for later. But you may not be able to resist eating this bread warm right out of the oven! :)

9781250018281GIVEAWY IS NOW CLOSED. The winning comment was #5, Barbara. Congratulations!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 9, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 10. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of bread is or if you have ever made homemade bread!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

This is a great book for bread lovers, so if you’re one, be sure to enter the giveaway! :)

S’mores Popcorn from The S’mores Cookbook and a Giveaway!

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bildeWhen I think of summer treats, I think of S’mores around a campfire. But when I looked through my review copy of The S’mores Cookbook  by Susan Whetzel, I realized that you can enjoy the great taste of S’mores all year round in lots of different ways! This hardcover book is filled with lots of wonderful full-color photos of the many recipes you can make. And the publisher, Adams Media, has offered to send a giveaway copy directly to the winning commentor on this post! See the end of the post for details.

So S’mores are not just for summer anymore…you can make a great S’mores dessert whenever you crave it! And actually, S’mores are not just for dessert anymore, because this book also includes breakfast recipes, too! Some treats from this book that I’d like to try out are:

  • S’mores Stuffed French Toast
  • S’mores Popovers
  • Mini Dark Chocolate S’mores Muffins
  • S’mores Coffee Cake
  • Dark Chocolate S’mores Pie
  • S’mores Mousse Cups
  • S’mores Dip
  • S’mores Cupcakes
  • S’mores Chocolate Chunksters

I decided to make the S’mores Popcorn first because it’s been really hot and humid lately, and I wanted to do a no-bake recipe. Plus, this is a great recipe to give as a food gift, packaged in a cellophane bag–and with Christmas just 4 months away, I’m on the lookout for some tasty and easy food gift ideas! :) It’s really kind of addicting, so you’ll want to either have lots of people help you eat it up or share with your friends! The two kinds of chocolate mixed with the caramel corn and marshmallows make a really rich and yummy treat! It’s also a great snack to make in the fall if you’re having a tailgate party or watching the games at home. Store-bought caramel corn works great in this, or you can use homemade if you like.

When I melted the chocolate, I added just a little bit of coconut oil, about 1 teaspoon per cup, to make the chocolate a  little smoother for drizzling. If you do this, the chocolate will take a little longer to dry or set, and it may not package as well since the chocolate will be a little gooier, so it’s definitely an optional thing. If you decide to add some oil when melting the chocolate and if you’ve used an extra large sheet pan to spread your popcorn mix on,* you can put your pan of S’mores popcorn in the fridge, after everything is mixed together, for at least a half hour or until chocolate is set.

Here’s the recipe…

S’MORES POPCORN BAGS from The S’mores Cookbook

Yields: 10 gift bags

Feel free to make your own caramel popcorn for this amazing treat, but store-bought works amazingly well and tends to hold up and look nicer in the gift bags. Either way, it’s a win-win situation!–Susan Whetzel

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (Note: I used an extra 1/4 cup later in the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 8 cups caramel popcorn
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 10 cellophane gift bags
  • Ribbon, to tie bags, as needed

Cover the counter with parchment paper (*I lined an extra large sheet pan with parchment paper instead). Drizzle the parchment with melted semisweet chocolate and immediately sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and popcorn, making as even a layer as possible.

Drizzle the white chocolate over the popcorn; allow to dry. (NOTE: I melted an additional 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips and drizzled this over the popcorn, too, for an extra chocolatey taste). Once chocolate is dry, pour the popcorn from the parchment into a large bowl; add marshmallows.

Divide evenly into cellophane bags, and tie with decorative ribbon.

This makes a great game snack or food gift and it’s so easy to make, so keep it in mind for football season and gift- giving at the holidays!

bildeThe Giveaway is Now Closed. Congratulations to commentor #8, Linda G., for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway….if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The S’mores Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Sunday, September 1, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! Winner will be chosen ramdomly via Random.org and announced on Monday, September 2. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway is limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me if you make S’mores often or if you’ve made any S’mores-inspired recipes this summer.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following!

Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away–because of spam, I need to approve all the comments before they show up! Hope you all have time to enter, and enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

 

Banana Split Ice Cream Sandwich from I Scream Sandwich!

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Photo from I Scream Sandwich!

Did you know that August 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day? I just heard about it recently myself. Before I was involved in the food blogging world, I had no idea how many IScreamSandwich90365JFfood holidays there were–too many to keep up with! :) But I do love ice cream sandwiches, so I thought I’d share a little about a book that has lots of recipes for the homemade kind, I Scream Sandwich, by Jennie Schacht. There’s a wide variety of ideas for sandwiches made with brownies, bars, cakes, brioche, crusts, gelatos, sorbets, and even dairy-free options…just about any kind of ice cream sandwich you could imagine!

There are also helpful ice cream sandwich-making tips in the first chapter, Sandwich Secrets. And in the second chapter, Jennie writes about Essential Equipment, Ingredients, and Building Block Recipes. The rest of the book is filled with yummy full-color photos and ice cream sandwich recipes like:

  • Inside-Out Carrot Cake (Cream Cheese Ice Cream on Carrot Cake Cookies)
  • Key Lime Pie (Key Lime Ice Cream on Sugar Cookies)
  • S’mores (Fudge Ripple Ice Cream on Graham Crackers with Toasted Marshmallows)
  • Apricot Croissan’wich (Apricot Sorbet on a Croissant)

And then there’s the Banana Split ice cream sandwich (pictured above), made with assorted ice creams and toppings on a hot dog bun with Caramelized Bananas. I didn’t have time to try this recipe out myself, but it sounded like such a  fun one that I thought I’d share it with you! And you can use either homemade ingredients or store-bought to make these.

BANANA SPLIT ICE CREAM SANDWICH from I Scream Sandwich!

Makes 6 sandwiches

“…Part sandwich, part sundae, it’s a great way to use up bits of leftover ice cream and sauces, all while maintaining a semblance of health (bananas! berry sauce! fruit and nut garnish!). I’ve even used soft honey-whole wheat buns in place of the brioche and they perfectly soaked up all the melty ice cream and sauces…For a banana split party, line up the buns, sugar-crusted bananas, ice cream with small scoops, bowls of sauce, and any additional toppings, and let everyone make their own.” – Jennie Schacht

ASSORTED ICE CREAMS AND TOPPINGS

  • 3 or more flavors of ice cream or gelato (homemade or store-bought), enough to make 18 small scoops in total (1 to 2 Tablespoons per scoop)
  • 3 or more sauces (homemade or store-bought), such as Salty Carmel Swirl (page 156), Fudge Ripple (page 156), and Berry Ribbon (page 159)
  • Any additional toppings you desire, such as fresh berries, chopped toasted nuts, marshmallows, whipped cream, or candied cherries

HOT DOG BUNS

There’s a recipe for homemade Brioche Buns in the book, but you can also use 6 soft, good-quality bakery or store-bought hot dog buns.

CARAMELIZED BANANAS

  • 3 bananas, peeled and split lengthwise
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Lay out the bananas cut-side up on a flat flameproof surface and sprinkle each half evenly with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar. Holding a kitchen torch 1 to 2 inches from the surface, move the flame slowly and steadily over the bananas until the sugar melts and then browns, 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, broil the sugared bananas on a baking sheet as close as possible to the heating element, watching closely until the sugar is melted and golden brown, 2 minutes or longer, depending on your broiler.

SANDWICH

Split and open the buns, leaving them hinged on one side. Remove some of the soft insides from both sides of the bun to form a well.

For each sandwich, place a bun on a plate and lay a caramelized banana against the top half of the open bun. Place 3 small scoops of slightly softened ice cream on the bottom half, up against the seam. Top each scoop with a spoonful of sauce, warmed if desired, and any additional toppings you wish. Press gently to close the bun, and serve immediately.

Doesn’t that sound like a great cool summer treat? Do you like ice cream sandwiches, and have you ever made homemade ones?

Recipe/photo reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang. All rights reserved.

Spanakopita from 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes and a Giveaway!

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Spanakopita is one of my favorite appetizers. I have always loved these bites of cheesy spinach filling and flaky phyllo crust. But I’ve never tried making them. So, when I received a review copy of 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes: Sweet to Savory and discovered a recipe for them in the book, I knew it was time to give it a try! I’m really glad I did–they were really good! I’m sharing the recipe with you later in this post. But first I’ll tell you more about the book, because there are all sorts of mini pie recipes in it…and I have a giveaway copy you can enter to win, too! See the end of the post for the giveaway details!

minipiecover175 Best Mini Pie Recipes (softcover), by chef and food writer Julie Anne Hession, has all kinds of wonderful sweet and savory recipes. Here are just a few…Blackberry Sugarplum Cornmeal Pies, Raspberry Nectarine Gallettes, Caramel Apple Hand Pies, Brown Butter Custard Pear Tarts, Southern Banana Pudding Pies, Carrot Cake Pies with Cream Cheese Crust, Chocolate Cappuccino Pocket Pies, Pesto Chicken Hand Pies, Pork Empanadas with Salsa Verde, Mini Cheese and Sausage Calzones, Croque Madame Breakfast Cups, Minestrone Pot Pies…and lots of other tasty treats for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. The book also includes helpful tips in the chapters on Creating Perfect Mini Pies and Working with Dough. So if you’re new to pie-making, you’ll find this book helpful and easy to understand. And if you’re an experienced pie maker, you’ll enjoy the wide variety and creative recipes to choose from!

Here’s the recipe for Spanakopita…no need to make any dough for this, since it calls for purchased phyllo dough. If you haven’t ever used phyllo sheets in a recipe, you may find it a little tricky to work with because they are so thin and delicate…but after folding a few spanakopitas, you’ll get the hang of it! :)

SPANAKOPITA from 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes

Makes 24 Triangles

When people think of Greek food, spanakopita is likely one of the first dishes that come to mind. Serve these crisp spinach and feta phyllo pies as a flavorful vegetarian appetizer at parties–they will quickly disappear!–Julie Ann Hession

  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces (375 g) fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped green onions
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) crumbled feta cheese
  • 24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C), positioning racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

1. Filling: In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach, then transfer to a cutting board. Chop coarsely and place in a large bowl. Add green onions, parsley, lemon juice, egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; stir to blend. Add feta and toss to blend.

3. Place one sheet of phyllo on clean work surface, short side facing you. Working quickly, brush with melted butter and fold in half lengthwise. Brush again with butter.

4. Spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon (20 mL) spinach filling onto bottom left side of strip, leaving about a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border at the bottom. Fold bottom left corner over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold triangles up the strip of phyllo to the top as if you were folding a flag. Brush top of triangle with butter, pressing end to seal. Place triangle, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling, making 24 triangles.

5. Bake in preheated oven at 375˚F for 18 to 20 minutes, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through, until phyllo is deep golden brown and crisp. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Tip: The key to making perfectly crisp spanakopita is to ensure that excess liquid is removed from the spinach before filling. If your filling begins to produce liquid while you are still constructing the triangles, remove it by straining or by pressing the spoonful against the side of the bowl before placing on the pastry. This will make the difference between soggy and spectacular bits.

Make Ahead: Spanakopita can be assembled and frozen for up to five days. Freeze pies for 30 minutes on baking sheets, then seal in zip-top bags. Bake from frozen as directed.

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GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

Congratulations to commentor #18, Marie, for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, June 1, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, June 2. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite kind of pie is.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Can’t wait to hear what kind of pies you all like! :)

Mango Parfait from 150 Best Desserts in a Jar

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51vAE27HW4L._SY300_Have you served any desserts in jars yet? I’ve seen some great ideas on Pinterest and in several magazines, so when I heard about 150 Best Desserts in a Jar, I was happy to review it and discover a whole collection of yummy recipes, from rich and decadent to light and healthy. Author Andrea Jourdan has developed quite an array of recipes that sound easy and delicious–puddings, cobblers, pies, cakes, trifles, parfaits…just about any kind of dessert you can think of! And you can creatively present them in attractive jars…antique jars, canning jars, or just uniquely-shaped jars you’ve kept…I’m always saving jars from jams, relishes, and other items because they’re just too pretty to discard!

The book is divided into two parts: Warm and Comforting (crumbles, cobblers, puddings, bread puddings, custards, cakes, and souffles) and From the Fridge (fruity and/or creamy desserts, gelatins, trifles, tiramisu, chilled cakes, sweet soups, parfaits, and frothy desserts). I thought the Marble Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream Sauce, Warm Salted Caramel Pudding, Blackberry Bread Pudding, Pear and Almond Crumble, Brownie Frozen Delight, and Banana Cream Pie Crunch all sounded wonderful. But I decided to try one of the healthier recipes, the Mango Parfait, because I was craving a healthy dessert…and this really hit the spot! Mangos are sweetened with a little sugar and paired with creamy Greek vanilla yogurt for a great-tasting treat. It’s really cool and refreshing, so you’ll have to try this out soon!

MANGO PARFAIT from 150 Best Desserts in a Jar

One of the most popular exotic fruits, the mango here brings its tangy flavor to a perfect companion–yogurt. This is my family’s favorite healthy treat after lunch.–Andrea Jourdan

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 mangos, peeled and sliced, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cardamom
  • 2 cups (500 ml) Greek-style vanilla yogurt

Mangos: In food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the flesh of 2 mangos with the sugar.

Place remaining mango slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with cardamom and mix gently. Set aside.

Assembly: Spoon approximately 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) mango puree into the bottom of each jar. Cover with 1/4 cup (60 ml) vanilla yogurt. Repeat. When ready to serve, garnish with reserved mango slices.

Tips: For a sweeter treat, add 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) maple syrup to the top of each jar. Mango and maple syrup are a great match. Use any leftover mango puree to make a smoothie.

You could also sprinkle some granola cereal on top of these parfaits–that would make a nice garnish. I was having a little trouble slicing my mangos–most of my slices didn’t look that great–so I cut most of my mangos into chunks and that worked fine, too.

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Hope this inspires you to make some desserts in jars–it’s easy and fun!

Buttered Brussels Sprouts with Parsley and Chives from Return to Sunday Dinner

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Remember Sunday Dinner? Just hearing the words can take you back–perhaps to a well-loved dining room in your grandparents’ house, where a stately oak table is laid with lace and hand-painted china. The table overflows with its Sunday bounty…bowls of steaming, garden-fresh vegetables, crocks of sweet butter and homemade jam, and the succulent Sunday roast, juicy and brown. Incomparable aromas fill the house, laden with the promise of freshly baked, light-as-a-feather biscuits or warm-from-the-oven peach cobbler.  –Russell Cronkhite

1401604803.jpg_4So begins the book, Return to Sunday Dinner: The Simple Delight of Family, Friends, and Food by renowned chef Russell Cronkhite. It brings back memories  of what was once an American institution–the Sunday meal that so many looked forward to each week…a time set apart to slow down, savor, and enjoy wonderful food and the family and friends gathered around to share it with. This hardcover cookbook, with lots of colorful photos, invites you to revisit that tradition with a special collection of recipes, menu plans, and helpful time-saving tips. After reading the first paragraph of my review copy, I was definitely inspired!

You’ll find classic Sunday dinner recipes like Slow-Cooked Beef Brisket, Amish Potato Rolls, Golden Mushroom and Onion Soup, Garlic-Herb Mashed Potatoes, Herb-Roasted Chicken, Heartland Raisin-Buttermilk Pie, Creamed Peas and Pearl Onions, Swedish-Style Meatballs with Sour Cream Gravy, Savory Turkey and Vegetable Pot Pie, Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Casserole, and Coconut Cream Cake. There are so many recipes I want to try from this!

I decided to try the Buttered Brussels Sprouts with Parsley and Chives first because I hadn’t made Brussels Sprouts in awhile, and I really do like them. I usually steam them, but they sounded so good made this way, with a buttery herb sauce, and they really were!

BUTTERED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PARSLEY AND CHIVES from Return to Sunday Dinner

Makes 8 servings

Tender baby Brussels sprouts are the best choice when available, so look for nice small ones that are deep green with tight firm leaves.

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh snipped chives
  • 1/2 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the Brussels sprouts into the water and cook them until they are bright green and tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the sprouts thoroughly.

Second, melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat; when the butter begins to bubble, add in the sprouts and season to taste with salt. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Just before serving, toss in the chives and parsley.

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After I spooned the brussels sprouts into this cute little Pyrex serving bowl that a sweet friend had given me (thank you, Donna! :) ), I sprinkled on a few more fresh chopped chives since I had a little extra. If you’re the kind of person who likes to add more toppings to your veggies, I think shredded Parmesan or Cheddar cheese would be great on these, and even bacon bits or crumbled bacon.

Do you make special Sunday dinners when you have time? What’s your favorite Sunday dinner dish?

Olive Tapenade from Clean Food and a Giveaway!

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51TfP72OjLLIf you’re interested in learning more about eating healthy, Clean Food is a great place to start! Written by cookbook author, nutritionist, and clean food advocate Terry Walters, this updated and revised edition is a helpful guide to “eating clean.” I received a review copy from the publisher, Sterling Epicure, and also a copy to give away! I’ll tell you a little about the book and share a recipe, and you can see the end of the post for details on the giveaway.

Clean food, simply put, is naturally grown and minimally processed. Walters explains in the book that the more processed your food is, the more you lose out on natural nutrients. So it’s important to eat seasonal, unprocessed, organic, and locally-grown foods.

The book starts off with several chapters that include helpful tips on eating clean, and then the recipes, more than 230, are divided seasonally for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. This helps you take advantage of using fresh, seasonal ingredients all year long. There are lots of full color photos of many of the recipes throughout the book, too.

Some of the great-sounding recipes include Artichokes, Fennel and Olives over Penne, Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Honeydew Cucumber Soup, Lemon Berry Cream Pie, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos with Cashew Cheese, and Wholegrain Pancakes.

I thought I’d try the Olive Tapenade because I love olives and have bought olive tapenade many times, but never made it myself. It’s delicious and very easy to make, so I think I’ll make my own from now on!

OLIVE TAPENADE from Clean Food

Makes 1 1/4 cups

I often prepare this tapenade for company and serve it with Garlic Crostini as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a pasta dinner. But I enjoy it even more the next day spread on toasted sourdough bread in a roasted vegetable or portobello mushroom sandwich.–Terry Walters

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 cup oil-cured black Greek olives, pitted
  • 2 generous Tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, plus more if desired
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

With food processor running, drop in garlic and mince. Turn processor off, add olives, capers, thyme, parsley, lemon juice, and pepper to taste. Process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add olive oil a little at a time to achieve the desired consistency. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice and transfer to bowl. Store in airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.

I wanted my olive tapenade to be thick, so I didn’t add any extra lemon juice and just used about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. But you can make it as thick or thin as you like. My tapenade was also a little on the chunky side because the food processor setting on my blender wasn’t working that great…if you have a good food processor, your tapenade will be a lot smoother! The tapenade tasted really good on my crusty loaf of bread and I want to try it on a roasted vegetable sandwich sometime like Walters recommends!

I like making recipes that taste great and are good for you! If you do, too, here’s how you can have a chance to win a copy of this book…

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED And the winner is…comment #22, Rachel. Congratulations!

The Giveaway: If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Clean Food, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Friday, March 8, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Saturday, March 9. Winner will be notified via email (if  winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me telling me what your favorite fruit or veggie is.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaway is open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

I hope you get a chance to try the Olive Tapenade! I’m a big olive fan…do you like olives too?

Holiday Books To Give and Get…and Two Giveaways!

I have a collection of five holiday books I wanted to tell you about, and the first two shown in this post are the giveaways–I’ll tell you more about that at the end of the post! Here’s a little info about each one of the books:

165303802The Farm Chicks Christmas is a wonderful Country Living book that has many “merry ideas for the holidays”…including lots of decorating ideas, DIY crafts, and yummy recipes! It came out as a hardcover book a few years ago, and now there’s a softcover edition (and this is one of my giveaways)! There are lots of great, colorful photos in this book with plenty of timeless, homey ideas that will inspire you each holiday season.

197757087The Little Book of Baking is a sweet little hardcover spiral-bound book that’s filled with yummy recipes you can make for the holidays or year round. Brought to you by Good Housekeeping, there are 55 recipes for cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and pies…ranging from classics like New York-Style Cheesecake to unique treats like Pistachio and Cherry Biscotti. There are easy-to-follow directions, so all levels of bakers will like using this. I have a giveaway copy of this, too!

513-F9kASnL._SL500_AA300_Delish: A Home-Baked Christmas is another cute little hardcover spiral-bound book that has recipes for “56 Delicious Cookies, Cakes, & Gifts From Your Kitchen.” Delish.com is a popular website for home cooks and this recently-published book has recipes for a variety of favorite holiday treats. Delish recipes are triple-tested every time, so they must be good! :) There are lots of beautiful photos in the book–it would make a great gift for anyone you know who loves to bake!

mediumThe Daily Cookie is brimming with “365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life.” A cookie recipe for each day of the year…how great is that? An event or holiday is highlighted for each day, with a yummy cookie recipe that complements the special occasion. There’s everything from Sour Cream Blueberry Pie Bars to Chocolate Sundae Cookies…a great cookbook for any cookie-lover! You could even call this hardcover book with color photos of every cookie a “cookiepedia!”

180253177Last but certainly not least, I want to tell you about another Country Living book called Deck the Halls…I love this book that’s filled with do-it-yourself ideas for Christmas gifts, crafts, and decorations. It also has super-fun, whimsical, and artsy pullout recipe and gift cards, ornaments, and gingerbread house templates…along with some yummy “gifts from the kitchen” recipes. This softcover book is packed with lots of ideas to make your holidays creative, fun, and festive!

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

Comments 12 and 26–Linda G. and Barbara N.–were the winners…congratulations!

giveawaybksNow for the giveaways…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Farm Chicks Christmas (softcover) or The Little Book of Baking, leave a comment on this blog post saying which book you’d like to win between now and Saturday, December 8, at midnight (CST)–the random drawings will be made from the comments on this post only! The winners will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced right here in this post on Sunday. Winners will be notified via email (if a winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me which book you would like to win. (If you would like winning either one, you can say that, too, but let me know what your first choice would be).

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

Sweet Potato Biscuits from Around the Southern Table

Originally being from the midwest, I didn’t get my first taste of Southern food until I was in my mid-twenties. And I’ve been a fan of it ever since! There’s something about Southern cooking that is so comforting and inviting. And because I love the charm of Southern food, I decided to review a new Southern Living cookbook called Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang, who is a ninth-generation Southerner. This hardcover book features lots of mouth-watering photos and 150 made-from-scratch recipes that will help you bring a touch of Southern hospitality to your own table. The book is divided into these chapters:

  • Pull Up a Chair–A charming introduction with some tips on creating an inviting Southern table.
  • Sunup–Breakfast/brunch recipes like Pound Cake French Toast and Brown Butter Coffee Cake with Peaches and Blueberries.
  • Little Bites, Sips, and Jars–Appetizers, beverages, and homemade condiments.
  • Dinner Bell–Hearty main dishes like Pecan, Bourbon, and Cane Syrup Ham, Stuffed Meatloaf, and Crispy Country-fried Steak.
  • From the Oven–Casseroles, breads, and biscuits like Hoppin’ John Bake, Macaroni with Five Cheeses, and Herbed Buttermilk Biscuits.
  • Soup Spoons and Sliced Bread–Soups, stews, and sandwiches like Rich Corn Chowder and Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwiches.
  • Harvest Time–Salads and sides like Heirloom Tomato Salad and Swiss Chard with Bacon Butter.
  • Sugar Bowls–Delicious desserts like Six-Layer Caramel Cake and Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Pecans.

I decided to try the Sweet Potato Biscuits because I love biscuits! And I’ve never made Sweet Potato Biscuits before, only drop biscuits. I had a feeling these would be much better than drop biscuits, and they definitely were! They are fluffy and puffy, and a biscuit-lovers dream! These would be great to make for Thanksgiving–either the main meal or for a Thanksgiving weekend brunch. Hope you get a chance to try these!

SWEET POTATO BISCUITS from Around the Southern Table

From the Author: Anytime I have leftover baked sweet potatoes, I make a batch of these biscuits. Super-moist and loaded with sweet potato flavor, they’re wonderful with ham, blueberry preserves, or butter. A little extra baking powder helps them rise.

Makes 15 biscuits (My  note: I actually ended up with 18 biscuits, so you’ll get anywhere from 15 to 18 biscuits)

  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed baked sweet potato, at room temperature
  • 4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour (such as White Lily) (My note: I couldn’t find White Lily flour, so I used Gold Medal Self-Rising flour)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Stir together buttermilk and sweet potato in a medium bowl.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until it is crumbly and resembles small peas. Add buttermilk mixture, and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough onto a well-floured surface, and knead 4 times with lightly floured hands. Pat dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/4-inch round cutter (be very careful not to twist the cutter). Place biscuits, with sides touching, on a parchment paper-lined sheet.

Bake at 425˚F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

These are great hot out of the oven, spread with some butter and drizzled with a little honey! Definitely comfort food!

Are you a fan of Southern cooking, too? What’s your favorite Southern dish?

Coca-Cola Cake from Southern Living Home Cooking Basics

My Coca-Cola Cake, cut while still warm…

I’ve found a lot of great recipes from Southern Living magazine through the years, so I was looking forward to reviewing their new cookbookSouthern Living Home Cooking Basics: A Complete Illustrated Guide to Southern Cooking. It really is complete, with information on how to stock your pantry and helpful, detailed, step-by-step instructions for preparing fruits,vegetables, herbs, meats, and cheeses…pretty much everything you need to know to make great Southern dishes.

There are over 200 recipes and lots of full-color photos in this cookbook. It also has a great section on cooking methods–baking, broiling, braising, frying, grilling, roasting, sauteing, and steaming. The recipes are organized in these categories: Appetizers, Breakfast and Brunch, Breads, Sandwiches and Soups, Meats and Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Side Dishes, Desserts, and Sauces & Condiments.

As I was looking through my review copy, some of the recipes that sounded good to me were: Spicy Ham-and-Eggs Benedict with Chive Biscuits, Red Pepper Jelly-Brie Bites, Cinnamon-Pecan Rolls, Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole, Praline-Apple Bread, Easy Mini Muffulettas, Loaded Potato Soup, Bev’s Famous Meatloaf, Salt-and-Pepper Oven Fries, Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings (photo from book below left), and Southern-Style Caramel Apples (photo from book below right).

And, of course, the Coca-Cola Cake. I’ve been wanting to make one of these, but hadn’t had the chance to look up a recipe for it. So it was great when I found the recipe here! It’s a very moist, tender cake topped with smooth, silky frosting and a sprinkling of pecans. Very yummy and easy to make! It tastes great served warm, when the frosting is still gooey, and it tastes great cool, when the frosting becomes a little fudgier. It even tastes great if you store it in the fridge and eat it later, still cold…the frosting gets really fudgy then!

I shared my cake with my coworkers, and everyone loved it, so I’m sure you will, too! Here’s how my cake turned out…

…and here’s the recipe so you can make one of your own!

COCA-COLA CAKE from Southern Living Home Cooking Basics

Makes a 9×13 cake

  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (unsweetened baking cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Coca-Cola Frosting (see recipe below)
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans, toasted, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine Coca-Cola and buttermilk; set aside.

Beat butter at low speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.

Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture; beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended.

Stir in marshmallows. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13×9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes. Pour Coca-Cola Frosting over warm cake; garnish with toasted pecans, if desired (I didn’t toast my pecans, and it was good that way, too).

My Notes: If you stick a toothpick in the center of the cake to test for doneness, it will probably come out almost clean; that’s OK for it to be like that–I think it has something to do with the marshmallows being in the batter.
And when my cake came out of the oven, it was very bumpy because of the marshmallows…not to worry though–the frosting covers the bumps! 

COCA-COLA FROSTING (Makes 2 1/4 cups)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup Coca-Cola
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened baking cocoa)
  • 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan oven medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla.

When all frosting ingredients are well-blended, pour immediately over cake. If garnishing with  chopped pecans, sprinkle those on right after pouring the frosting on the cake, since the frosting sets quickly.

This cake is a new favorite of mine! Have you ever made or tasted a Coca-Cola cake?

Spinach and Feta Salad with Fresh Beetroot from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

If indulging in British delicacies from another era sounds good to you, then you’ll need to check out The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, inspired by the popular Emmy Award-winning series. I recently received a review copy from the publisher and enjoyed looking through this classic recipe collection. There’s a wide range of sophisticated snacks, entrees, and desserts, including Mrs. Isobel Crawley’s Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches, Saxe-Coburg Soup, Potatoes Lyonnaise, Mrs. Patmore’s Downstairs Pork Pie, Decadent Chocolate Almond Cake with Sour Cream Icing, Classic Vanilla Rice Pudding, William’s Bilberry Pie, and many more delicious-sounding recipes.

Author Emily Ansara Baines points out: “In a world where appearance is key, it’s no surprise that each meal served at Downton Abbey is a gargantuan display of opulence.” So trying out these recipes is a great way to treat yourself! :)

I decided to try one of the salads, since it was very unique and different from any I had ever made–the Spinach and Feta Salad with Fresh Beetroot. I am developing a taste for beets more and more, so I really enjoyed this salad…and the fact that it has feta cheese in it, too, is appealing to me since I’m a big feta cheese fan! The candied walnuts that top the salad are also a great touch.

Here’s the recipe…

SPINACH AND FETA SALAD WITH FRESH BEETROOT from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

The unique addition of fresh beets–known as beetroot in London–mixed with these ingredients makes for a surprising, but delicious salad that everyone at Downton Abbey would enjoy. The festive mix of sweet flavors (such as maple syrup and orange juice) would provide guests at any garden party or luncheon with an extra excuse to smile.

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 4 medium beets, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and dried (I used baby spinach leaves)
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  1. Place beets in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool, then cut beets into cubes.
  2. Place walnuts in a skillet and briefly heat over medium-low heat. Add maple syrup and butter. Cook and stir until walnuts are evenly coated, then remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and set aside.
  4. Place a large helping of spinach leaves on plates, then divide candied walnuts among plates over greens. Place equal amount of beets over greens, then top with feta cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing, followed by orange slices.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? Or a fan of classic British recipes?

Walnut Brownie Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting from Hello Cupcake!

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When I was asked if I’d like to review Hello Cupcake! by the publisher, I just couldn’t say no because I love cupcakes and cupcake cookbooks! Written by cookbook author and food stylist Leila Lindholm, the book is filled to the brim with sweetness and cuteness! The recipes are so yummy-sounding and the photos so delightful that I couldn’t wait to start baking! Some of the many cupcake recipes include Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes, Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes, Sticky Pecan Upside-Down Cupcakes, and Rocky Road Cupcakes. Not only that, there are also some great whoopie pie recipes sprinkled throughout the book, too…like Ginger Raspberry, Chocolate Mint, and Banoffee whoopie pies. I decided to combine two of Leila’s recipes…I made the Walnut Brownie Cupcakes, but instead of topping them with whipped cream and fresh raspberries (which would definitely be amazing), I decided to try her Nutella Frosting that she had as part of her Easter Cupcakes recipe.

The Walnut Brownie Cupcakes are rich and chocolatey, with chunks of dark chocolate, and the Nutella Frosting is pretty amazing too! The ingredient amounts in the recipe are written in ounces and grams, so I did have to make some conversions into cups and I’ve included my conversions below. The recipe also says it makes 12 cupcakes, but I ended up with 15, which was definitely a good thing, because these are so yummy! :) I also filled my baking cups a little more than the recipe instructed, so my baking time was a little longer, and I’ve noted that below also.

Here’s the recipe…enjoy!

WALNUT BROWNIE CUPCAKES with NUTELLA FROSTING from Hello Cupcake!

Makes 12- 15 cupcakes 

  • 200 g (7 oz) walnuts, or 1 3/4 cup
  • 175 g (6 oz) butter, or 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 150 g (5 oz) granulated sugar, or 3/4 cups
  • 150 g (5 oz) light muscovado or brown sugar, or 3/4 cups, packed
  • 150 g (5 oz) good-quality cocoa powder, or 3/4 cups  (I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder)
  • 50 ml (1 3/4 fl oz) golden syrup (substitute honey or light corn syrup) or 3 1/2 Tablespoons
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 g (5 oz) all-purpose flour, or 1 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 200 g (3 1/2 oz) good-quality 70% dark chocolate (I used a 4 oz Ghirardelli bar of 60% dark chocolate)

Preheat oven to 175˚C or 345˚F.

Toast the whole walnuts in a hot and dry frying pan (I skipped this step).

Whip the butter, sugar, and brown (or muscovado) sugar until creamy. Add the cocoa, syrup, and salt. Whisk in one egg at a time.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and sift it into the other ingredients. Coarsely chop the chocolate and add it and the whole walnuts to the batter.

Line muffin tin(s) with paper cup liners  and fill the cups 2/3 full with the mixture (I filled mine closer to 3/4 full, and I still ended up with 15 cupcakes instead of 12; if you fill them 2/3 full, you may get 16 or 17).

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes (if you fill your cups 3/4 full like I did, your baking time will be 25-28 minutes). Test cupcakes with a toothpick; they should be a little sticky in the middle. Remove from oven and cool completely.

You can either garnish these cupcakes with whipped cream and fresh raspberries or top them with Nutella Frosting (see recipe below)

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NUTELLA FROSTING

  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) Nutella, or 1/3 cup
  • 400 g (14 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar, or 3 1/2 cups
  • 4 Tablespoons good-quality cocoa (I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 g (5 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon coffee

Mix the Nutella, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cream cheese until creamy (I think it works best to blend the Nutella and softened cream cheese first, then add the other ingredients). Add the coffee and whip until fluffy (this is a thick frosting; if you’d like it thinner you can add a little more coffee). I went a little lighter on the frosting and had a good amount left over, so feel free to frost these heavier–you should have plenty to do that!

I love chocolate cupcakes, and these brownie cupcakes are a new favorite of mine! What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday.