Tag Archives: dessert

Semi-Homemade Lemon Blueberry Cake

I was in the mood for lemon cake this weekend, so I decided to bake one. I had some yellow cake mix in the pantry, along with cream cheese frosting, so I decided to “enhance” them for some lemony deliciousness. If you have a favorite yellow cake or cream cheese frosting recipe, by all means use them. But I had the box stuff and a lot to do, so here we go!

Semi-Homemade Lemon Blueberry Cake

1 box of yellow cake mix

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 can of cream cheese frosting

2 lemons

1 jar lemon curd

Fresh blueberries


Preheat oven to 350° (325° if you’re using dark, nonstick pans). Grease two 8-inch cake pans.

Zest both lemons and squeeze the juice; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Beat using an electric mixer until the batter is smooth. Add half of the lemon zest and half of the lemon juice and mix another 30 seconds or so. Split the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and allow them to cool on wire racks.

Mix the remaining lemon juice and zest into the cream cheese frosting and chill in the refrigerator while the cakes cool. When the cakes are completely cooled, use a large bread knife to shave off the top of one of the cakes to create a flat surface. Spread the lemon curd on the flat cake surface and cover with fresh blueberries. Top the filling with the other cake and frost with the lemon cream cheese frosting.


Chocolate Cake in a Mug

I go through phases where I absolutely crave chocolate. I cannot get enough, and it doesn’t matter in what form it comes as long as it ends up in my tummy. These phases generally last three to five days every month, so I’m sure you ladies can relate. :) I was smack dab in the middle of one of these “phases” the other day and, having polished off the rest of the rocky road ice cream two days prior, I was experiencing chocolate withdrawal.

As I was puttering around on Pinterest, I came across a pin about coffee cake in a mug. Someone commented on the pin, “First chocolate cake in a mug and now this- what are you doing to me?!” I immediately started Googling chocolate cake in a mug to see if I had the necessary ingredients, and within five minutes, I was at my kitchen counter preparing two mugs of cake (no, they weren’t both for me—the hubby wanted to try it too!).

This cake isn’t going to win any culinary awards or rock your socks off, but in a pinch (or a PMS-induced craving), it works just fine! Next time, I think I’ll add chocolate chips to the batter or top the cake with ice cream or Cool Whip, since it was a bit dry. Also, the cake is pretty dense, so one mug of cake would have been plenty for Ryan and I to split.


Instant Chocolate Cake
Recipe ©2011 Food Network Magazine, LLC  

Whisk 1/4 cup flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons milk, 3 tablespoons vegetable oiland a dash of vanilla extract and salt in a large mug until smooth. Microwave until puffed, about 2 minutes.

Supermarket Shortcuts and Speedy Desserts from Cooking Light

I’ve been getting Cooking Light magazine for years, and I always find great recipes, healthy eating tips and inspiration in its pages. The April 2012 issue, however, seemed almost as if it were written just for me. The focus this month was on fast and easy meals, shortcuts and quick desserts. I always fold down the corner of the page when I find a recipe I want to try, but this time nearly all of the corners were tabbed!

The article “Supermarket Shortcut Solutions” recommended using fresh or canned pizza dough, fresh pasta, hummus, precooked brown rice, and rotisserie chicken to get dinner on the table in a flash, and there are 20 different recipes using these ingredients. With the exception of the fresh pasta (I usually just use the wheat pasta in the box), I am an old pro at using these shortcuts. I also love using jarred roasted red peppers, frozen veggies, Tyson® Grilled & Ready Chicken Strips, fish sticks for fish tacos (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it), frozen shrimp, and whole grain couscous (throw in some rotisserie chicken and steam-in-the-bag veggies and you have a full meal in less than 10 minutes)!

Photo: Nigel Cox; Styling: Tiziana Agnello

But what caught my eye more than any other recipe was the one for the Limoncello Freeze. My husband and I were introduced to limoncello during a trip to Italy several years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since. My mom has even perfected a limoncello cheesecake (which, come to think of it, I’ll have to share here later). This Limoncello Freeze sounds so quick and easy, I will definitely be giving it a try as soon as I am over this stinking sinus infection and can taste food properly again!

Limoncello Freeze
From Cooking Light, April 2012
Makes four

1/4 cup lemon curd

2 1/2 tbsp limoncello

2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream

12 mini vanilla meringue cookies

Combine the curd and limoncello in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk to blend. Add ice cream to curd mixture; stir gently to swirl. Spoon 1/2 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 bowls; top each with 3 meringue cookies.

Now tell me that doesn’t look like it would hit the spot on a hot summer day?!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I took today off work so that little O and I could spend the day together and join our friends in a Valentine’s Day playdate. We rarely get to do this sort of thing, so we’re really excited! I volunteered to bring a dessert, so I thought what better than red velvet cupcakes?! (Though I may regret this depending on how messy things get!) I made mini cupcakes for the little ones and large cupcakes for the mamas.

My original plan was to just pipe on some frosting and throw on a few Valentine’s Day sprinkles, but that plan went down the tube when I saw the chaos that was the Valentine’s Day aisle at Target last night. {Holy craziness! Why people wait to buy their kids’ valentines until the night before is beyond me, but judging by the remnants, I don’t recommend it.} There wasn’t a single solitary sprinkle left. So. . . I moved on to plan B. My friend Stacy had told me about a quick icing trick for cupcakes that produced a smooth surface for decorating, so I figured I would give it a try.

Using store-bought or homemade cream cheese frosting (or whatever kind you want), microwave it in 10 second intervals in a microwave-safe, shallow bowl until the frosting is smooth and liquidy (not sure if that’s a word, but I can’t think of a better description). Hold on to the bottom of each cupcake and dip the top, making sure to coat the edges, in the frosting. Turn the cupcake as you lift it out of the frosting to keep it from dripping everywhere. The top will set as a smooth surface, similar to Royal Icing. Then you can use decorating gel, candies, piped frosting, etc. to decorate the cupcakes.

I don’t think these turned out too bad for my first attempt! Granted, I’m not showing you the 4 or so cupcakes that are in my frig right now because they look too heinous to share. Word to the wise, don’t try to get too artistic using decorating gel or you could end up with a cupcake that looks like you tried to draw one of those little Quiznos rat things from the old commercials—and this is seriously the first thing that came to my mind when I looked down at said cupcake!


This post title makes me laugh because these cookies totally made me feel like Cookie Monster. It’s a good thing they’ve been rationed to me because I think I could eat an entire batch in one sitting!

My brother’s girlfriend made these Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod over the weekend, and my brother made the mistake of bringing me one to try at work on Monday. I say “mistake” because I have begged and/or bullied him into bringing me another one each day since. I don’t think “heaven” is a good enough description. Pop one of these babies in the microwave for 10 seconds and you get a warm, gooey, sweet/salty bit of deliciousness. If you liked the Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks, you most definitely want to try these!

I plan to make a very large batch as soon as I can get rid of the cookies I already have at home, and I am required to bring some into work. (My poor coworkers have had to watch me enjoy my yummy cookie everyday because my brother only brings one and I refuse to cut it into four pieces to share!)

Courtesy Two Peas & Their Pod

Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt
Source: Two Peas & Their Pod
Yield: 2 dozen

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Soft caramel, rolled into little balls
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF; line 2 baking sheets with baking paper, lightly coated with cooking spray. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sift together flour, soda, and salt; set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Wrap the chocolate dough around the caramel balls. Place balls on cookie sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.



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Everyday I’m Trufflin’. . .

My friend Dori gave me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated for my birthday this year. While it might not be the flashiest of magazines, it has quickly become one of my best cooking resources. There are really great tips sent in by readers and home cooks, as well as tried and true recipes that have been executed multiple times in America’s Test Kitchen until perfect. So I decided if I was going to try making truffles for the first time, the Chocolate Truffles recipe featured in the January 2012 issue would be the one to start with. It’s a bit time consuming, mostly waiting around for the ganache to cool and chill, but the results are well worth the wait! I gave these to my coworkers for Christmas (along with yummy homemade cookies, which I’ll post about later!), and they were a HUGE hit!

Chocolate Truffles
(From Cook’s Illustrated, January 2012)


12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (Mom Machine Note: I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate baking bars)

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces and softened


1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Mom Machine Note: I actually rolled my truffles in three different coatings:  pistachios, coconut and cocoa. You could also do powdered sugar, crushed toffee bits, chopped hazelnuts, really anything you like. If you do alternate coatings, just lower the amount of the cocoa mixture, since you won’t be using it for all 64 truffles. Since I did three different coatings, I only used 1/2 cup of cocoa and 1/8 cup of powdered sugar.

Optional coatings 

1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios, chopped super fine

1/2 cup flaked coconut (I actually used shredded coconut, and I think flaked would work much better)

Make a parchment sling for an 8-inch square baking dish by folding 2 long sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as baking dish.  Lay sheets of parchment in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan.  Push parchment into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing flush to pan.

Microwave chocolate in medium bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted and few small chocolate pieces remain, 3 to 4 minutes; set aside.  Microwave heavy cream in measuring cup until warm to touch, about 30 seconds.  Stir corn syrup, vanilla extract and salt into cream and pour mixture over chocolate.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 3 minutes, and then stir with wooden spoon to combine.  Stir in butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Using rubber spatula, transfer ganache to prepared pan and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours.  Cover pan and transfer to refrigerator; chill for at least 2 hours.

For the coating, sift cocoa and powdered sugar twice over a large cake pan using a fine mesh strainer and set aside.Gripping overhanging parchment, lift ganache from pan.  Cut ganache into 64 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). (Mom Machine Note: From Cook’s Illustrated- run your knife under hot water and wipe dry before cutting to make it easier. I actually recommend doing this step before each cut. It helps keep the chocolate from cracking.) 

Dust hands lightly with cocoa mixture to prevent ganache from sticking and roll each square into ball.  Drop balls in cake pan with cocoa mixture and roll evenly to coat.  Lightly shake truffles in hand over pan to remove excess coating.  (Mom Machine Note: This works best if you do this assembly line style, so recruit help if you can. My hubby did the rolling while I handled the coating. It took about 15 minutes to do all 64 truffles.) Transfer coated truffles to airtight container and repeat until all ganache squares are rolled and coated.  Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.  Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Caramel Apple Pie

This was my first attempt, ever, at making an apple pie. It hit me halfway through the baking process that perhaps feeding a bunch of hungry people at Thanksgiving wasn’t the best time to try something new (ever since the infamous cannoli cake debacle at my husband’s birthday, I like to test recipes out before going public with them). But my fear turned out to be unfounded— this was one of the best apple pies I’d ever had!

Caramel Apple Pie

1 refrigerated or frozen pie crust (or you can be ambitious and make your own- I used Pillsbury refrigerated crust)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6 cups of peeled and sliced apples (Granny Smith or another tart variety work best)

Dash of salt


1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup quick oats

1/2 cup butter, softened but still chilled

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Caramel sauce for drizzling (like Smucker’s ice cream topping)

Vanilla ice cream (because apple pie isn’t complete without it!)


Prepare your pie crust according to the directions. If using the rolled, refrigerated pie crust, you do not need to pre-bake the crust. Just unroll it in a pie plate and trim and press the edges.

Stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat. Pour the apples into the pie crust.

In a separate bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter and pecans for the topping. It should have a coarse, crumbly texture. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and press it down lightly, making sure to cover to the edges.

Cover the edges of the pie in aluminum foil, and bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Remove the foil edging and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and allow to cool for several minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream.

Halloween Cupcakes

I love Halloween. More than that, I love Halloween parties. And to go with all tricks, you need some yummy treats. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to bake up some of these adorable Halloween cupcakes with me. Until then, guess I’m just going to have to enjoy these myself!

Photo via sugarturntable.com

Photo via zombiewagon.com

Photo via bhg.com

Photo via celebrate-creativity.com

Photo via cutefoodforkids.com

Crescent Rolls, 8 Ways

Refrigerated crescent rolls are possibilities in a can! There is seriously so much you can do with them, from breakfast to main entree to dessert and more. Here, I have gathered 8 of my favorite recipes that use Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations (basically a sheet of crescent rolls without the perforations). They are super quick and easy. . . not to mention delicious!

Photo via Pillsbury.com

Bake a sheet of crescent rolls (the Recipe Creations works best for this one) according to the directions and cool completely. Mix  8 oz of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp minced garlic and 2 tbsp chopped scallions. Spread the mixture on the cooled crescents, top with your favorite raw veggies, and slice into small squares.

Photo via Pillsbury.com

Taco Pie

Brown 1 lb of ground beef and add taco seasoning according to directions on the packet. Press a sheet of crescent rolls into a pie plate (you may need to separate the triangles for it to fit nicely). Alternate layers of the fully cooked ground beef, shredded cheese, corn, and salsa until you have reached the top. Top with more cheese and bake until the crust is brown (about 20 minutes).

Photo via PlainChicken.com

Chicken Roll-Up Casserole

Fill crescent rolls with a heaping spoonful of a mixture of cream cheese, chicken, butter, onion, cheese and garlic. Smother with a cream sauce of milk, cheese and cream of chicken soup, top with more cheddar cheese and bake for 30 minutes. So good!! You can see the full, detailed recipe here.

Photo via PlainChicken.com

Buffalo Chicken Crescents

Place a slice of provolone cheese on a crescent roll along with a fully cooked fried chicken finger dipped in buffalo wing sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot). Roll the crescents and bake for about 20 minutes. You could also do this with fully cooked shredded chicken tossed in the sauce instead of the fried chicken and bleu cheese crumbles instead of the provolone.

Photo via aisletoaloha.blogspot.com

Jalapeno Poppers

On each crescent triangle, place a dollop of cream cheese, a tsp or so of diced jalapenos and a few small pieces of fully cooked bacon. Pull the corners of the crescent up and twist to create a little purse (this will hold the cream cheese in as it cooks). Bake for about 15 minutes on 350 and start poppin’ (carefully though, that cream cheese will be HOT!).

Photo via oneshetwoshe.com

Apple Dumplings

Place a slice of peeled apple into each crescent triangle and roll up. Put all of the rolls into a casserole dish. Melt 2 sticks of butter, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and a tsp of vanilla, and pour the mixture over the rolled up apples. Pour a can of Mountain Dew (strange, I know, but it’s delicious!) all around and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 for about half an hour.

Photo via bacontimewiththehungryhypo.blogspot.com

Breakfast Wreath

Place 1 can of separated crescent rolls in a sun pattern- wide sides in, points out- on parchment paper. Place a strip of cooked bacon on each triangle, and sprinkle shredded cheese in a circle, covering the bottom (wide) half of the triangles. Follow the same pattern with 5 large scrambled eggs, and fold the points of the triangles over toward the center, creating a wreath shape. Top with more cheese and bake at 350 for about 18 minutes. For more details on this recipe, check out Bacon Time With The Hungry Hypo‘s blog.

Photo via eatatallies.com

Marshmallow Crescents

Place crescent triangles on parchment paper. Dip 8 large marshmallows in melted butter and then roll in cinnamon sugar. Wrap each marshmallow in a crescent roll, making sure all the edges are pinched together. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

A friend of mine recently made mini pumpkin spice cookie sandwiches with cream cheese frosting using this seasonal cookie mix by Betty Crocker. The cookies are quick, easy, delicious and perfect for celebrating the first day of fall! You can make the cookies whatever size you want, but the miniature size is great for kids.

For the filling, you can use store-bought cream cheese frosting, or try your hand at this amazing homemade frosting recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick of butter, brought to room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp whipping cream

4 cups powdered sugar

Blend together the cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Slowly add in the whipping cream until your frosting is at the desired consistency.

Sandwich a dollop of frosting between two pumpkin cookies, and you’re all set!


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