Skele-Cat Veggie Tray

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My parents give one killer of a Halloween party every year, complete with the best and spookiest food! This year I was assigned a vegetable side…  and I came across this darling skeleton cat. Every body loved it and ate it right up! The bean dip is very healthy and tasty too but honestly not a favorite with the kids, I’m sure ranch would have been preferred… but then I wouldn’t have had the “black” cat look! Sometimes you gotta make sacrifices. ;)


Arrange cat skeleton using whatever veggies you like (sliced peppers or green beans make great ribs!)

*I would have made the tail curve up and around more if I had more room. Also I would have made the legs a little longer and had more carrot “claws” on each paw.

Skele-Cat Veggie Tray - Black Bean Dip
  • 1 can black beans
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 3-4 Tb lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  1. Mix together in food processor.


Irish Soda Bread

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IMG_1523 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I love this holiday… discovering the trickery of the leprechauns, the good natured pinching, the green, rainbows, and gold, and most of all the delicious food.  What’s not to love about this great day?! Irish or not, it’s a fun holiday.  This soda bread will go perfectly with pretty much any Irish meal you’re planning for tonight (that I can think of…) and it’s easier to make than scones.  These loaves are beautiful, crusty, slightly sweet, and delicious.  This time I made one loaf as stated in recipe and one loaf with lemon zest and Craisins… yum!  Hope you enjoy!

Irish Soda Bread
Recipe Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1¾ cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried currants
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
  3. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
  4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
  5. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rainbow Cupcakes

rainbow cupcakes
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rainbow cupcakes IMG_3390_1

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here and it’s the perfect to time to make some rainbow treats!  These cupcakes are easy to make and a big hit with the kids.  I love how bright and festive they are!  (However, be warned that if you use food color drops instead of the concentrated gels, the colors won’t be nearly as bright – they will turn out more pastel.)  Hope you all have a great holiday and keep those pesky little leprechauns from making too much mischief at your house. ;)

Rainbow Cupcakes
Serves: 24
  • 1 white cake mix (prepared as directed on box)
  • Wilton concentrated gel icing colors
  • Buttercream Icing
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I left this out because I wanted the frosting to be very white)
  • 3-4 Tb milk
  1. Divide prepared cake mix equally into 5 bowls.
  2. Place a small amount of food coloring gel in each bowl and mix to combine - I used red, yellow, green, blue and purple.
  3. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  4. Drop a spoonful of each colored cake mix into each cupcake liner until all the cake mix is used up. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely then frost with buttercream icing and rainbow sprinkles.
  6. Store in refrigerator to maintain frosting texture.
  7. In a mixing bowl, cream butter.
  8. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
  9. Add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.
  10. Makes 24 cupcakes

Grandma’s Cinnamon Buns

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IMG_3355 These are the essentially the same as Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls (after all, both recipes originated from the same person) but with one big and delicious difference.  When Grandma makes cinnamon rolls, she likes to add a thick, caramelly sauce to the bottom of the pan.  So each roll has a sticky bottom… and it really is to die for!  Grandma also likes to use lots of brown sugar inside the rolls. For me, this recipe is the dessert version of cinnamon rolls. They are incredibly rich and delicious.  I’d be curious to hear which you like better so let me know once you try both! IMG_3354_1

Grandma's Cinnamon Buns
  • Cinnamon Buns:
  • ½ recipe of sweet roll dough (see below)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 Tb cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup cream
  • Glaze:
  • 2-3 Tb softened butter
  • 2 Tb milk
  • powdered sugar
  • Whisk together using only enough powdered sugar to make it quite thin.
  • Grandma’s Sweet Roll Dough recipe:
  • 2 rounded Tb yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 7-8 cups flour
  1. Beat all ingredients except flour until smooth. (I use a Kitchen Aid with paddle attachment.)
  2. Add flour until it cleans off edge of bowl. (Switch to a dough hook for this part.) Knead for 5 minutes (or 10 minutes by hand).
  3. Let it rise until double (about 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).
  4. Punch dough down and allow to rise again.
  5. This time it will rise much faster so keep an eye on it!
  6. Punch dough down again and divide into 2 parts.
  7. Roll out dough into a long rectangle about ½ inch thick.
  8. Spread butter 1 inch from edge.
  9. Sprinkle with brown and white sugar and cinnamon.
  10. Roll up lengthwise.
  11. Slice using dental floss or very sharp knife - each roll about 1¾ inches thick.
  12. Heat 1 cup brown sugar and cream over low heat until melted.
  13. Pour into the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan.
  14. Place rolls over top of sauce.
  15. Raise until doubled in size.
  16. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  17. Drizzle glaze over warm buns.


Flourless Chocolate Torte

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flourless chocolate torte This truly is the ultimate chocolate torte.  I have posted a different flourless chocolate cake, which is delicious, but this one is amaaaaazing.  The creator of this perfect dessert is one Janet at Simply So Good and for the record the name of it is actually La Bete Noir (The Black Beast).  The reason this recipe stands head and shoulders above all others that I’ve baked or tasted, is because of the wonderfully smooth texture. Don’t get me wrong, the taste is incredible too but that depends a lot on what type of chocolate you use.  If you use generic chocolate chips in this recipe, it’s just not going to taste anywhere near as wonderful as using Belgium chocolate or some other fancy, dark chocolate.  As long as you use high quality chocolate, you can’t go wrong. (I love the brick of Belgium chocolate at Trader Joe’s called “pound plus”.)  So for that Christmas party coming up, try out this torte.  It’s not hard to make at all and it will make your friends very happy!  Another bonus is that it can be made a week or two ahead of time and frozen until you need it.  Perfect for the busy days ahead. PS: I adorned this time with chocolate curls just for looks (tutorial at Pioneer Woman).

Flourless Chocolate Torte
Makes 16 servings
  • (Torte)1 cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
  • 18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • (Ganache)1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan.
  3. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment.
  4. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim.
  5. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan.
  6. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  7. Simmer 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat.
  10. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  11. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly.
  12. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended.
  13. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  14. Place cake pan in large roasting pan.
  15. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.
  16. Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes.
  17. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack.
  18. Cool completely in pan.
  19. For ganache: Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.
  20. Remove from heat.
  21. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  22. Pour over top of cake still in pan.
  23. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. (*As the torte cools, it will pull away from the edges of the pan, leaving space for the ganache to run down the sides and completely cover the cake.)
  24. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours.
  25. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides.
  26. Cut cake into wedges and serve with fresh whipped cream.

Example of yummy chocolate: IMG_3194
Recipe Source: Simply So Good

White Chocolate Mousse Tartlets

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Melanie is actually the one that deserves the credit for these delicious little bites.  The first time I tried one was at my engagement party that my sweet sister hosted for me.  I was hooked… along with everyone else!  These gorgeous little tartlets are a favorite at baby showers and girl parties…  not to leave the men out though – they love them too!  The filling is so rich and creamy, it pairs perfectly with sweet, juicy berries.  But if the season isn’t right for berries, I have made them with kiwi and mandarin orange wedges. I’m sure you could get creative.  Here in the Northwest, we have more blackberries then we know what to do with.  Which is why my tartlets feature the plump, ripe blackberry!  Another thing I love about these little sweets, is that they are so pretty and look so gourmet, and yet they really aren’t hard to make.  You can make the pastry shells in advance and freeze them, then all you need to do is whip together the filling and decorate with berries!  In case you’re wondering about where to get tart molds, I really like the NORPRO brand: photo (10)

White Chocolate Mousse Tartlets
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Cafe

1 double crust pastry dough recipe, rolled out (*see below for my favorite pie crust recipe)

3.5 oz white chocolate squares (three and a half 1-oz squares)
1 ¼ cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3.4 oz pkg instant vanilla pudding mix

Press your pastry into tartlet molds. Cut off extra. Place on baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Watch closely – they should be golden. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely then gently remove from molds.

In a glass bowl, microwave white chocolate and ¾ cup half and half on high for 1 ½ minutes, to simmer. Let sit 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Transfer to a chilled bowl. Chill 45 minutes. Add remaining half and half, the heavy cream, vanilla extract,  and vanilla pudding mix. Beat until stiff. Spoon into cooled tartlets. Decorate with assorted berries and fruits.

Barefoot Contessa’s Perfect Pie Crust
  • 12 Tb very cold unsalted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • ⅓ cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 6-8 Tb ice water (about ½ cup)
  1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture.
  2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix.  Add the butter and shortening.  Pulse 8-12 times, until the butter is the size of peas.  With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball.  Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Cut the dough in half.  Roll each piece on a well-floured surface, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick.  Gently press into tart molds and cut off excess dough around the edges.

Rich Chocolate Pudding

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I’m a sucker for a creamy, made-from-scratch pudding.  I was spoiled with my mom’s vanilla pudding all growing up and once in a while I treat myself to that recipe.  But with how much I love chocolate, I’ve always wished I had a good chocolate pudding recipe.  Finally I found one that I really love!  I guess the key was in the ingredients… the real chocolate that you chop up into the pudding.  I had a bunch of bittersweet (70% cocoa) Ghirardelli’s chocolate squares that I used and it was perfect!  I have to warn you though… do not use chocolate chips!  I was short just a bit and thought I’d cheat and use a few mini chocolate chips once.  Well those itty bitty chips did not melt all the way!  So we had chocolate chip pudding! ;) My kids loved it anyway, and I have to admit I still licked the bowl clean.  But if you want a perfectly smooth and creamy pudding, pass on the chocolate chips and use good quality chocolate that you finely chop.

Rich Chocolate Pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tb cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped *high quality like Ghirardelli's
  • 2 Tb butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Stir together 2¾ cups milk and ½ cup sugar in large saucepan.  Heat until steaming.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Once milk is warmed, whisk together remaining ¼ cup sugar, cocoa powder, corn starch, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk in yolks and remaining ¼ cup milk.  Gradually whisk in a little of the hot milk mixture (about ½ cup) into bowl.  Now stir egg mixture into the saucepan.  Cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, over medium-low to medium heat until thickened and coats the back of the spoon - can take up to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Divide among 6 dishes, ⅔ cup in each.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and serve.

Perfect bar cookies for a crowd

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I had to add “perfect” in the title so you wouldn’t just skip over this recipe!  This is really a cookie breakthrough… let me tell you why.  First of all we have the genius aspect of the bar form of cookies.  Who loves cookies? Everyone.  Who loves baking batch after batch after batch of cookies? Less then everyone.  Who likes heating up their house with an oven on for hours during a hot summer? No one.  Am I right?  The answer is the bar cookie. The trick is finding the right recipe where the cookies still end up perfectly golden and yet moist and melted inside.  I have several bar cookies recipes that I have always liked… but this one blows them out of the water! Seriously this recipe is wonderful.  I’ll tell you secret though… you have to use the best chocolate chips.  For me, that’s hands down Guittard chocolate chips.  They are incredibly smooth and creamy and I love how the milk chocolate chips are extra big.  Try a combination of milk, white, and semi-sweet when you make these bar cookies.  The combination is fantastic!  I have also tried it using coconut oil in place of some of the butter (1 cup coconut oil and 1/2 cup butter) and the results were amazing – a very subtle coconut flavor that was delicious. This recipe is also great because Tina at Epicuricloud (where I found this gem) adjusted the ingredients to fit a 17 in. x 12 in. cookie sheet pan (as opposed to the original recipe for a jelly roll pan). Hope you enjoy!
Perfect bar cookies for a crowd
  • 3¼ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened (can use coconut oil*)
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups chocolate chips (I usually mix up whatever I have, milk, semi-sweet, white - yum!)
  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
  2. Grease 17 x 12 - inch half-sheet pan
  3. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

recipe source: Epicuricloud

Homemade English Muffins

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I stumbled across this recipe and boy, am I happy about it.  I never once considered that English muffins could be made at home.  They always seemed far too mysterious of a bread… to me anyway. I guess I’m easily intimidated because these are super easy to make!  And soooooo much better than the store-bought variety.  I doubt I’ll be buying those dry little things ever again.  These are fabulous toasted with butter and jam or honey, and the leftovers make perfect little pizzas with some spaghetti sauce and cheese under the broiler.  Hope these make your day (or week!) like they did mine when I first tried them!

Homemade English Muffins
*I wanted to note that I cook these on an electric skillet and it works great. Mine is big enough for 8 at a time, heat at 350 F. It takes a few more minutes - more like 10 per side. Makes about 16 muffins.
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 3 TBSP of honey
  • 1 cup of warm water (105-110 degrees)
  • 2¼ tsp of yeast
  • 2 TBSP cornmeal
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, gently mix together and set aside for ten minutes to foam lightly.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter and honey until the butter is melted. Let cool.
  3. Combine the yeast mixture and milk mixtures.
  4. In a large bowl, sift 3 cups of flour. Stir in the milk and yeast. Stir in the remaining flour and salt. Stir until cohesive. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 3 minutes or until slightly elastic.( Of course you can also let you Kitchen Aid or other machine do the work instead!) Let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cover two cookie sheet with parchment or Silpat and lightly sprinkle with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out until it's ½ inch thick. Using a 3.5 inch round cutter, cut out circles - don't twist the cutter, just press down. (Since I don't have that size of biscuit cutter, I use my husband's plastic energy/protein cups - just remove the lid and it's the perfect size. You gotta think creatively sometimes!) Gently place muffins on the cookie sheets, sprinkle the tops with cornmeal and cover with a dry, light cloth. Let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
  6. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet on medium low, don't grease it.
  7. Gently place a muffin in your hand and shake lightly to remove some of the corn meal. Gentleness is key in all of the handling. Place into the pan and repeat until the pan is full. Don't let them touch each other. Keep the heat on low. Cook for 8 minutes on the side or until browned well, flip and cook the opposite side for 8 minutes or until browned nicely. Let cool lightly on a wire rack. Split and toast.

Recipe source: My Fair Baking

Summer Grape Salad

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IMG_2829_1 During this most recent visit to Utah, my mother-in-law introduced me to this fabulous grape salad.  It’s so yummy, I love it! You have the creamy and sweet base, the juicy and tart grapes and the crunch of pecans.  Easy to make, looks delish and tastes like picnic perfection.  Simply fab.

Summer Grape Salad
*This easily doubles. Or if you like it more creamy, (less grapes) just double the cream cheese/sour cream/sugar and add grapes until desired consistency.
  • 2 bunches of red or green grapes *get firm and juicy ones!
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 3 Tb sugar
  • brown sugar for sprinkling on top
  • chopped pecans for sprinkling on top
  1. Wash and dry grapes, remove from stems.
  2. Whip together cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth.
  3. Fold in grapes.
  4. Sprinkle desired amount of brown sugar and chopped pecans on top immediately before serving.

Quick and Easy Meatballs

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IMG_2171_1 Talk about quick and easy… and really tasty too. These yummy meatballs are a favorite with my kids. Meatballs just make spaghetti so much more fun! ;) To be honest I had never made meatballs before… I’m one of those lazy gals that wondered why anyone would ever roll the meat into balls instead of just adding it the sauce!  Well after I tried these at my friends and saw how easy the recipe looked, I thought I would give it a try.  It was a fun change and the kids loved it!  I hope you all enjoy this simple recipe too.

Quick and Easy Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 envelope of onion soup mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tb milk
  • breadcrumbs to desired consistency (around ⅓ cup)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients together, roll into balls about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter.
  2. Place on baking sheet in 350 degree oven.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

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I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and I must say it really hits the spot on a rainy, chill spring day.  This hearty soup is total comfort food. The beef is fall-apart tender, the broth is rich, and the peas and corn give little bursts of sweetness with each bite. I really love it and hope you enjoy too!


Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
  • 2Tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 Med onion
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2lb boneless beef chuck roast trimmed of fat and cut into 1-in cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 med carrots cut in half then cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 C uncooked pearl barley
  • 8 c beef broth
  • 1½ C frozen sweet peas
  • 1 C frozen corn
  1. Heat oil over med-high heat.
  2. Brown onion, garlic, beef, salt, and pepper in oil 7 min.
  3. Spoon beef mixture into a 6-qt. slow cooker.
  4. Stir in carrots, barley and broth.
  5. Cover and cook on low 8-9 hours.
  6. Thirty minutes before serving, stir in peas and corn.

Whole Wheat Fruit Muffins

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I say fruit muffins but really these delicious and healthy muffins are pretty much whatever you want!   There are so many options for the fillings, the possibilities are endless.  My sweet friend Marcie decided to bring me a treat one day, and since we are both in the middle of a health challenge (ugh), she thought a plate of cookies would just be mean. So instead I received sugar-free, whole wheat muffins.  No processed food on the ingredient list either.  Well I’m sure you are all very skeptical (I know underneath I was), but I was more than pleasantly surprised when I tasted one. In fact I liked them so much I got the recipe from her the next day. Since then I’ve baked these up several times and they are always a big hit with my kids.  And for once I don’t feel bad when they go through a dozen muffins in one day! I love how you can stir in the toppings in each muffin before baking, so if you have little ones, they can “make” their own with whatever filling they want.  The juice and honey, not to mention the fruit you add, makes these muffins moist and gives it enough sweetness to be really satisfying.  And like I said before, the filling options are endless for what you feel like or what you have on hand.  My favorite so far is blueberries and applesauce but I also love to make them with Craisins and applesauce (or mashed banana).  My kids love them with strawberries too… I’m excited to keep trying out combinations!

Whole Wheat Fruit Muffins
Serves: 1 dozen
Here are some options to consider for the fillings: - blueberries -Craisins - diced strawberries - peeled and diced pears - applesauce - either diced or mashed up bananas and chopped walnuts - raisins and chopped pecans (I add an extra pinch of cinnamon to the muffins with this filling) - grated carrot and chopped walnuts - orange or lemon zest (only add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of zest per individual muffin) - a mix of dried fruit bits - jelly
  • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (grind it fresh if you can, then store in freezer to maintain freshness longer)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (or canola)
  • ¾ cup juice (orange, apple, cranberry, whatever you have)
  • About 1 cup of total filling (berries, fruit, nuts, etc. – see below for details)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the eggs, honey or agave, vanilla, oil and juice. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together – do not overmix.
  2. If you are in a hurry just add 1 cup of blueberries, mashed up banana & nuts, or other filling of your choice.(see list of ideas below)  If you have 5 or 10 minutes extra (and some anxious helpers) this is where it gets fun!  I like to add ½ cup of applesauce or mashed ripe banana at this point but you don't have to add anything to the muffin batter before continuing with the next step.
  3. Spray muffin pan lightly with Pam then  fill ⅔ to ¾ of the way full with batter. If you didn’t already add your filling, sprinkle 1 – 2 teaspoons of whatever you would like (from the list below or from your own creation) onto the top of each raw muffin in the pan.  If you have already added the ½ cup of applesauce or banana then just cut down on the filling you sprinkle on top. Your total filling amount should be approximately 1 cup.  Then gently mix each one with a fork or spoon.
  4. After the filling has been mixed into each muffin slide the tray into the warm oven and bake for 14 – 16 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe Source: 100 Days of Real Food

White Chocolate Caramel Swirl Cheesecake

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It’s birthday time again for my sweet hubby, which means it’s cheesecake-baking time!  This year I decided to try out a caramel swirl cheesecake. And then when I saw this recipe for White Chocolate Cheesecake, I thought, even better!  This cheesecake is extremely moist and very rich.  It definitely has more of a creamy texture and consistency than what I usually make.  Overall a big hit with the birthday boy, as well as with everyone else!  Hope you enjoy.  By the way, I prefer a chocolate crust but I’m sure a graham crust would be delicious.  Or if you want to compromise, how about a half Oreo- half graham crust like in this recipe?

White Chocolate Caramel Swirl Cheesecake
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Café

Oreo Crust
1/2 (15.5 oz) package of Oreos (1 1/2 rows of oreos)

Cheesecake Filling
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Caramel Sauce
recipe here

boiling water

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Using a blender or food processor, crush Oreos until finely ground.  Press into the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the side of a 10 inch springform pan.

Bake for 5 minutes and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Reduce the heat to 325°F and prepare the cheesecake batter.

Place the chopped white chocolate into a heat safe bowl and set aside. Bring the 1/2 cup of cream to a simmer over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate, jiggle the bowl to submerge it and allow to stand for one minute. Stir the chocolate gently until melted completely.

In your mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and lump free. Add the sugar and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

On medium speed, slowly add the white chocolate ganache. Once combined you can add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed until each egg is incorporated. Once you’ve added all the eggs, mix in the vanilla and salt and pour approximately 2/3 of the batter into your prepared pan.  Next spoon 1 1/2 cups of caramel (or desired amount) onto the cheesecake batter in thick ribbons, alternating with the remaining 1/3 of the batter.  It should look something like this: IMG_2086_1
Using a butter knife, gently swirl the caramel into the batter.  The swirling should be kept to a minimum – you want to have creamy little rivers of caramel in your cheesecake after it’s baked. If you swirl too much, it will just be a caramel-flavored cheesecake! IMG_2087_1
Set the pan onto a couple large sheets of aluminum foil and smooth them up the sides of the pan to waterproof.  Set the cheesecake into a large roasting pan and then place in the oven. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, filling to about one inch (no higher than the lowest edge of aluminum foil). IMG_2088_1

Allow to bake at 325°F for one hour then reduce heat and bake at 300°F for an additional 60-90 minutes until the center is just set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool chill for at least 4 hours before serving.  You can serve this as is, or serve with a drizzle of caramel sauce over each slice.

Recipe Source: adapted from Not So Humble Pie

Homemade Caramel Sauce

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I consider myself a die-hard chocolate lover.  I’m not too into caramel and will usually skip it.  Having said that, you better believe me when I say this caramel sauce is beyond compare.  There is just something about it… there’s no stopping at one bite, I’ll tell you that.  It has the most unbelievable taste. Creamy, caramel flavor – not too sweet and syrupy like so many caramel sauces out there. And the best part, second to the taste, is how easy it is to make.  I have tried over and over with recipes that have you actually caramelize the sugar first.  Honestly, I usually favor doing things the “right way”, the authentic way. However, when batch after batch would burn before the sugar could caramelize, I realized I didn’t have the right pan – a thick, bottomed pan really is the key. So I rather dejectedly researched other recipes and found this one… oh my goodness.  I will never go through the pain of trying to caramelize sugar again. When I tasted this sauce I about melted into a puddle on the floor, right there! It was that good.  I hope this recipe makes you as happy as it makes me!  And by the way, there are so many ways to use this caramel sauce. Next week I’m posting a White Chocolate Cheesecake with caramel swirl…..delicious!

Homemade Caramel Sauce
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Café

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt in a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Bring to boil for 3 to 5 minutes depending upon thickness desired.  Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk and vanilla.

recipe source:

Best Coconut Chocolate Cake

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I made this cake for a church party and the pan was scraped clean in no time!  It has a mild chocolate cake – kind of like Texas sheet cake – topped with ooey, gooey coconut and almond topping… all drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yum!

Best Coconut Chocolate Cake
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Café

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup water
1/4 cup baking cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
20 large marshmallows
1 (14 oz.) bag coconut
2 cups sliced almonds, toasted, divided
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In a small saucepan, combine the butter, water, and cocoa.  Cook and stir until butter is melted; add to dry ingredients. Combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; add to chocolate mixture and mix well.

Pour into greased 15x10x1 inch baking pan (9×13 works too).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine 1 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup sugar and marshmallows; cook and stir until marshmallows are melted.  Remove from the heat; stir in coconut.  Immediately sprinkle 1 cup almonds over cake. Spread coconut mixture over top.  Sprinkle with remaining almonds (pan will be full).

In a small saucepan, combine butter with the remaining milk and sugar.  Cook and stir until butter is melted.  Remove from the heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted. Drizzle over almonds.  Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Source: Taste of Home 2012

Baked Chicken Teriyaki

Jan 2013 008
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  Talk about an easy, absolutely delicious dinner!  I love this recipe and my entire family loves it too.  I suppose you could make it with chicken breasts instead of thighs but I highly recommend trying it with thighs first.  They are so flavorful and moist… if you’re not a fan yet, you will be after this!  I like to serve it with broccoli, it seems to soak up and compliment the yummy sauce.  Enjoy!

Baked Chicken Teriyaki
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Cafe

1 Tb cornstarch
1 Tb water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (can substitute 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1/4 tsp black pepper
12 skinless chicken thighs
4-5 green onions, sliced in 2 inch pieces

Combine all ingredients except chicken thighs and green onions in a small sauce pan.   Simmer over low heat until sauce bubbles and thickens.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Using kitchen shears, trim an excess fat off chicken thighs. Arrange single layer in a 9×13 inch baking dish, lightly greased with Pam.  Pour half of teriyaki sauce over chicken thighs, making sure they are completely coated.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn chicken thighs over and pour remaining half of sauce over top.  Sprinkle green onions on top of chicken.  Cover with foil again and bake for another 30 minutes.  Serve over rice.

recipe source: adapted from

Smothered Pork Chops

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There is something about this time of year that makes me crave comfort food.  Maybe it’s the taking-down of all the cheery Christmas decorations, maybe it’s the cold. I don’t know but it feels good to sit down to a warm, comforting meal.  Especially one that you can put in the oven or crockpot, get the table set, feed the baby, tidy up the dishes, (whatever you need to do), and then sit down to your meal nice and hot.  Sometimes I dread dinner time because it is so hectic and crazy trying to time all the dishes to finish at the same time and get it all on the table before it gets cold.  All while your family is demanding your attention!  Anyone out there relate? :)  Well anyway, this recipe is great because it frees you up in the end to attend to all the little details before dinner, so you can all sit down to a peaceful meal. At least that’s the way it works in my house!   We love these potato and mushroom smothered pork chops. Hope you do too!

 Smothered Pork Chops
submitted by Brittany ~ The Sisters Café

8 small red potatoes, quartered
2 Tb butter
3-4 Tb milk
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 Tb olive oil
4 pork chops
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tb olive oil

Boil red potatoes until soft. Drain water and mash with butter, milk, and salt.  While the potatoes are boiling, sauté the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, onions, and green onions in the olive oil over medium heat until onions are transparent, about 10 minutes.  Fold sautéed mixture into mashed potatoes and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large frying pan, brown the pork chops over medium high heat in the oil and garlic. (I rub the garlic into the pork chops first, then brown in the oil.)  Place pork chops in 9×13 inch pan and spoon mashed potato mixture on top of chops.  Cover lightly with foil and place in oven for approximately 45 minutes (or until pork chops are cooked, depending on the thickness of the meat.)  Uncover and allow potatoes to brown for 5-10 minutes, then remove from oven and serve.

serves 4

recipe source: adapted from $5 dinners