Thursday, May 26, 2016

Checkered Flag Brownies


This year will be my second time attending the Indy 500 with FOX59 and CBS4. Personally, I'm not a big racing fan, but the Indy 500 really is something special! I love all of the traditions, and the American pride, and the feeling and sounds when the cars start their engines.

This year is the 100th running of the race, so it's extra special! And it also happens to be my aunt's 50th birthday, so my family from Arizona is visiting for the big race -- so many exciting things! That being said, I wanted to make an extra special treat to celebrate the occasion! (In case you were wondering, "special" is clearly the word of the day because evidently I can't think of another adjective.)

After thinking about it for a long time, I decided on these checkered flag brownies. It took me a little while to figure out how to make the checkered design, but once I figured it out I think it turned out really well!

Also, as you'll see below there is a chocolate frosting on the brownies. The frosting serves two purposes: 1) The frosting gives you a smooth surface for the checkered flag design and it makes the design look sharper. 2) It takes the brownies from being just "good" to "WOW!" Seriously the frosting is sooo good! And it's simple to make too. Just start with Challenge butter, add a little milk and cocoa powder, and once that's combined stir in the powdered sugar! it smells and tastes just like fudge.



Checkered Flag Brownies

Ingredients
For the brownies
  • 2 boxes brownie mix (I ususally use Ghirardelli Double Chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup Challenge butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
For the frosting
  • 1/3 cup Challenge butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 metal baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Put the brownie mix, melted  butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Spread brownie batter in prepared pan evenly and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. I like my brownies softer so my baking time was closer to 30 minutes, but I know some people like brownies with crispy edges.
  3. While brownies are cooling, prepare frosting. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Once the butter is melted, add the milk and the unsweetened cocoa powder, and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. Pour over brownies. Make sure to spread quickly before it sets.
  4. Let brownies cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes. You must make sure frosting has completely hardened before the next step!
  5. Cut paper into 1-inch squares, and lay the squares on brownies in a checkered flag design.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  7. Lift pieces of paper up, and it will look like a checkered flag!
Recipe adapted from the Cake Mix Doctor.

Mini Blueberry Cheesecakes


After sitting down all day at work and looking at a computer, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to write a blog post. My brain doesn’t want to focus anymore, and it’s even harder when the weather is beautiful and I can hear little puppies playing outside. Fortunately, in this case, I don’t have to say much because the recipe is pretty straightforward.

As evident by the ingredient list below, these cheesecakes are very simple. Unlike a full-sized cheesecake, which can be a bit overwhelming, mini cheesecakes come together incredibly fast and you don’t have to worry about the top cracking or putting it in a water bath.

There are two options for the crust: graham cracker and vanilla wafer. The graham cracker crust contains two ingredients – pretty easy right? But the vanilla wafer crust is even simpler – just put a vanilla wafer in the cupcake liner!

Make sure to not over fill the cupcake liners -- only fill about 2/3 way full. When you pull the cheesecakes out of the oven post-baking they will begin to sink in the middle almost immediately. But that’s okay!  The sunken center is a good cavity to hold your homemade blueberry sauce! Because what's cheesecake without blueberry sauce?!

The perfect cheesecake blueberry sauce is the same blueberry sauce I use with pancakes and ice cream. It's very easy to make and you can use fresh or frozen blueberries!

And of course, I only use Challenge cream cheese and butter in the recipe. Challenge dairy is fairly new to Indiana, and I'm so glad I discovered it. Their products are hormone free and made with real cream.  You can really taste the difference! Before baking with Challenge, I just bought whatever was on sale. But after tasting the difference and the quality, I won't bake with any other brand!



Mini Blueberry Cheesecakes
Yield: Makes about 16 mini cheesecakes

Ingredients
For the crust
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
OR
  • 16 Vanilla Wafer cookies
For the cheesecake
  • 2 packages Challenge cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (151 grams)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
For the blueberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Directions
For the crust
  1. Preheat your oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit. Put liners in cupcake pan; set aside.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Distribute evenly amongst liners and press down.
  3. Or if you plan to use vanilla wafers, place one wafer face-up inside each of the liners.
For the cheesecake
  1. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
  3. Scoop cheesecake batter into cupcake liners 2/3 full.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature before transferring to refrigerator.
For the blueberry sauce
  1. Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan.
  2. Stir in water and add blueberries.
  3. Place saucepan on stove-top and set burner heat on medium high.
  4. Bring mixture to boil and let simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove sauce from heat.
  6. Add spoonful to top of each cheesecake and serve.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oreo cheesecake-stuffed strawberries



Cheesecake and strawberries make the perfect pair. The tanginess of the cream cheese combines perfectly with the natural sweetness of the strawberries.

So with today being the first day of strawberry season in Indiana and with it being National Pick A Strawberry Day, I thought cheesecake-stuffed strawberries would be the perfect treat to showcase.

Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries are an extremely simple, no-bake dessert that looks very fancy. They’re the perfect little treat for graduation parties and summer cookouts.

And while I was thinking about cheesecake I thought, ”Well, Oreo cheesecake is better than regular cheesecake!” So I decided to add crushed Oreos to the mix and make Oreo cheesecake-stuffed strawberries!

A lot of people cut off the tops of the strawberries and then scoop out the inside of the strawberries, but I discovered that it was easier to turn the strawberries upside down, cut the pointy side crosswise and then pipe the filling in the center.  And this way, you don’t waste any part of the strawberry!



Oreo Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
Ingredients
  • About 2 pounds strawberries (about 24 strawberries)
  • 18 regular Oreo cookies (this is 1/2 of a 14.3 ounce package)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package Challenge cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 Directions

  1. Cut the stems off the top of the strawberries, so the strawberries sit wide-side down.
  2. Cut a deep cross starting at the tip of the strawberry down, being very careful not to cut all of the way through. Set strawberries aside.
  3. Crush the Oreo cookies with a food processor.
  4. Mix the crushed cookies with the cream cheese and powdered sugar and vanilla until it’s completely combined.
  5. Gently open up each strawberry and pipe the cheesecake mixture into each strawberry using a pastry bag (or Ziploc bag) with a star piping tip.
  6. Top with a mini Oreo, if desired.
  7. Store chilled in an airtight container for up to three days.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chocolate Pecan Fudge


Whenever I taste fudge, memories of family vacations to Mackinac Island come flooding back.

Mackinac Island is a very, very small island in northern Michigan. The perimeter of the island is only 9 miles. And on this tiny little island are over a dozen fudge shops.

Fun fact: Mackinac Island has the most fudge shops per square mile in the entire world! (I’m actually not sure if that’s true, but it probably is.)

Each fudge shop has different flavors and different methods for making the fudge, but they all have one thing in common: creamy fudge that melts in your mouth.




That’s the standard all fudge should live up to. And that’s the standard I expect my fudge to meet.

I’ve been making fudge with my Yia Yia and mom for years. And honestly, this recipe is probably one of the easiest recipes on my blog. The trick is to work quickly and make sure it doesn’t cool before you pour it. Also, the secret ingredient is marshmallow cream. I’ve tried making fudge without marshmallow cream, and it just doesn’t turn out right.

You can also try mixing things up by substituting chocolate chips for butterscotch and pouring caramel in the center to make turtle fudge!



Chocolate Pecan Fudge
Ingredients
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup Challenge butter
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

 Directions
  1. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil. Let the edges of the aluminum foil extend over the sides so the fudge is easy to life out later. Set the pan to the side.
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan. Add sugar and evaporated milk and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once the mixture reaches a full rolling boil, stir constantly for five minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat, add chocolate chips, and stir. Once the chocolate chips have melted, add the marshmallow cream and stir until combined. Then add the vanilla and the pecans.
  4. Pour the fudge into the pan and spread the mixture until it’s evenly distributed. Let the fudge cool for about 4 hours before lifting it out of the pan and cutting it into squares.
For years, I thought this was my grandma's secret recipe, but it turns out that it was adapted from the Fantasy Fudge recipe by Kraft.





Thursday, May 5, 2016

Beef Taco Cups


Happy Cinco de Mayo! And happy birthday, Dad!

Today I’m celebrating with these cute little beef taco cups.  These would make a great appetizer for a party or you can eat them as an entrĂ©e for dinner.

I used wonton wrappers for the shell because they’re easy to work with and they fit perfectly in a muffin tin.  You can typically find the wonton wrappers in the tofu section at your local grocery store. And then I layered refried beans, seasoned beef, and cheese. Yum!

After baking them, I added my favorite toppings – cilantro, onion, tomato, and sour cream! Just like a regular taco, you can customize them any which way you please.

Beef Taco Cups
Yield: Makes about 24 appetizer cups

Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 36 wonton wrappers
  • 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
  • 2 cups shredded cheese

 Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Brown beef in skillet; drain the fat. Add the taco seasoning mix and water, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Place one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each muffin cup.
  4. Layer 1 Tablespoon of refried beans on top of each wonton. Top with 1 Tablespoon of beef and 1 Tablespoon of shredded cheese.
  5. Layer a wonton wrapper on top of the shredded cheese and add another layer of beef and cheese.
  6. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from tin and top with your favorite taco toppings (i.e. sour cream, diced tomatoes, onion, or cilantro).

Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything







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