White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Have you ever found yourself staring at the dessert menu in a restaurant, unable to decide on just one item?  It’s a true crisis at times, especially when you want to order everything you see, but clearly your waistline doesn’t agree.  Your best option is to go out to eat with several people who have a weak spot for desserts so you can all share one, or everyone get something different to sample each one.  Numerous times I’ve been out with people who claim they don’t want dessert, but as soon as it hits the table, they’ve eaten more than I have.  How does that happen?

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I was caught in this exact situation while looking over the dessert menu at a small restaurant in St. Petersburg that brings their desserts in from a bakery.  We ended up each getting our own dessert, rotating them around the table like it was a professional taste-testing event, nodding and making noises with each bite.  I couldn’t believe the amazing flavor of white chocolate with swirled raspberry filling throughout this cheesecake and an Oreo cookie crust.  We even took chunks out of my friend’s husband’s carrot cake that was so nicely packed in a to-go box.  Acting as damage control, we were preventing him from feeling guilty over eating such a large piece of cake.  Now that’s heartfelt consideration.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (modified from allrecipes.com)

20 Oreo cookies

3 tablespoons butter, melted

10 oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

frozen whipped topping, thawed (optional for serving)

In a food chopper or food processor, chop cookies into fine crumbs.  In a medium bowl, mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, heat cream just until boiling, pour over chocolate chips in a small bowl, stirring together until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar  with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate.

Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce and whipped topping.  Store in refrigerator.

Black Bottom Pumpkin Pies

While reading through a Fall Recipes magazine, I came across a recipe for a black bottom pumpkin pie.  I tried out the recipe, but wasn’t all that impressed with how it turned out.  The pumpkin layer was literally like pudding, and when I think of pie, I think of actually being able to cut a slice, rather than having to use a spoon to scoop it out due to the texture.  Well, back to the drawing board.  I decided to give it another shot, but change a lot of things around.

black bottom pumpkin pies

This time, an Oreo crust was prepared, but in a two 12 cup muffin pans.  How about make these little guys individual portions instead of a whole pie?  Sure!  The waiting process of letting them set in the fridge seemed like it took forever, because I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into them.  Well worth the wait.  Wow.

For the Crust:

20 Oreo cookies

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Process cookies into crumbs using small food chopper or food processor.  Mix together the melted butter with crumbs.  Using a medium size cookie scoop, distribute evenly between 24 lined cups between two muffin pans.  Bake for 5 minutes, cool completely on cooling racks.

For the Chocolate Bottom:

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cream

In 30 second intervals, melt chocolate chips in heavy cream in microwave.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixed with cream.  Drop 1 teaspoon of chocolate on top of each Oreo crust in muffin pans.  Put in refrigerator to set, about 15-20 minutes.

For the Pumpkin Layer:

2 (8 0z.) blocks cream cheese, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl, and beat at medium speed with electric mixer until blended.  Using a standard ice cream scoop, distribute evenly between all muffin cups on top of chocolate.  Use a spoon to spread evenly.  Set in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.  Top with Maple Whipped topping.

For the Maple Whipped Topping:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup maple syrup

Using electric mixer, beat at medium speed until mixture is thickened and forms soft peaks.  Generously spoon or pipe on top of pies.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Here we go with some more Fall Recipes…and my family is a big fan of pecans. My grandmother makes a pecan pie every Thanksgiving, so here is a slight twist on this incredible pie, but as individual bars…and with chocolate. You can’t go wrong with nuts and chocolate, in my honest opinion.

chocolate pecan pie bars

Just make sure your food processor works…  Because when I hooked everything up to pulse the crumb mixture, it decided to stop working.  As I was fiddling with it and felt my level of frustration (and blood pressure) rise, I texted my husband, fussing about how our food processor sucks, and I was ready to REALLY break it.  Sigh.  The idea of using the blender came across my mind, but when it’s literally in the dishwasher and it’s running along, the options were diminishing.  Oh well.  So, the hand held Pampered Chef food processor came out of the cabinet, and I tried to improvise.  Moral of the story?  Have a better backup plan for these delicious yummies…because even out of all this frustration, they were delicious.  Maybe Santa can bring me a new food processor.  😉

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars Recipe:

For the Crust:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing 2-3 inches to extend over sides.  Lightly grease foil.  Pulse all ingredients in food processor 5 to 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Press mixture on bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of prepared pan.  Bake crust for 15 minutes.   Cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes) before topping with remaining ingredients.

For the Pie Layer:

1 bag mini semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces

Sprinkle chocolate chips on crust.  Whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and eggs until smooth.   Stir in pecans, and pour mixture on top of crust and chocolate chips.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and set.  Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).  Chill for another hour in refrigerator.  Lift baked bars from pan, using foil sides as handles.  Transfer to cutting board, cut into bars.

Pumpkin Cookies

I’ll never forget the first time I had pumpkin cupcakes.  It was around Christmas several years ago, and my sister-in-law made them.  When she told me what kind of cupcakes she made, I grimaced.  Pumpkin?  That can’t be good.  I thought to myself.  Boy, I was SO wrong.  I couldn’t stop eating them, and have made them MANY times since then.

pumpkin cookies

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin recipes.  And I’ll be honest, when I open that can of pumpkin puree that will be going into the recipe, it doesn’t look or smell all that appetizing…but literally every recipe that is thrown together with pumpkin turns out to be absolutely delicious.  Since it’s the fall, the perfect opportunities present themselves to experiment with more and more pumpkin recipes.  With these cookies, I was really impressed.  They were thick, soft, and addictive.  The icing on top is just an added sweetness to their yumminess.  I gave some to my sister-in-law to try out since she likes pumpkin recipes, and asked her how she liked them.  She responded, “Yeah, a little too much.  I want the recipe.”  I think she liked them.  😉

For the Cookies:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar, beat with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy.  Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, continue mixing until smooth.  In a separate smaller bowl, add all dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to mixture, and continue beating until well combined.  Using a cookie scoop, place on cookie sheet or baking stone.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a very light golden brown on top.  Cool cookies on cooling rack.

For the Cookie Icing:

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3-1/2 cup milk (based on desired consistency)

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

combine all ingredients in small mixing bowl, and stir together until your desired consistency.  You’ll want it to be thick, but runny.  Dip completely cooled cookies one by one into icing.  place back on cookie sheet for icing to set.  Store in airtight container.

*Add some extra zing to these cookies by throwing in a bag of cinnamon chips or mini chocolate chips!

Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

A while ago, I gave it a shot to make a Pineapple Upside Down Cake…and was very impressed and happy with how it turned out.  So, naturally, when I was looking for more Fall Recipes, I came across this one…and stopped.  And since I made Bananas Foster several months ago and will never forget about how delicious that was, this recipe was added to the “to do” list.  Immediately.

bananas foster upside down cake

With the original recipe I was looking at, the cake was made from scratch.  Although it was good, I still felt like it was lacking in a couple of areas, and decided to keep it simple by using a doctored cake mix recipe that I’ve used many times, but changing around the ingredients to include banana, vanilla, and cinnamon flavors throughout the cake.  This way, when the banana, pecan, and caramel rum topping is literally the icing on top of the cake for this one.  This cake is moist, delicious…and I’ll definitely be making this one again.

For the Topping:

3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/4 cup butter

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

2 ripe bananas

Melt butter in small saucepan.  Remove from heat, stir in brown sugar and rum.  Continue stirring until smooth.  Spoon into an even layer in a 10 inch round cake pan.  Slice bananas diagonally, place over the sauce in pan.  Sprinkle pecans on top.  Cover with cake batter, bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cake is a light golden brown and cake pulls away from sides of pan.

For the Cake:

1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

1 small box instant banana pudding mix

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup oil

1/2 cup milk

4 eggs

8 oz. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in medium size mixing bowl, beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2-4 minutes.  Spoon batter over banana, pecan, and caramel rum topping.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cake is a light golden brown and cake pulls away from sides of pan.  Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, turn out to cool completely.

Pecan Pancakes with Caramel Apple Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a magazine at the grocery store that was packed full of Fall Recipes…so I grabbed it.  As I’m flipping through the different items, I wanted to make almost everything in there, all at once.  It was a bit distracting, and of course having to pick and choose what to make now, along with what to make later.  Well, since we recently went to an orchard and loaded up on apples, I decided to use this on my in-laws when we were all vacationing together at the beach.  They love my fluffy pancakes, so I decided to make these.  The pancake recipe is pretty much the same, except with a slight substitution of a small amount of light brown sugar and some added cinnamon.

pecan pancakes 2

The caramel apple sauce though…oh wow.  When I dressed my plate up to get some pictures and then sat down to eat, it was incredible.  I had to stop myself from eating every last bit of these three pancakes covered in bliss.  “Forget syrup, I’m making this for pancakes from now on!” I told my husband.  These were incredibly delicious, and I look forward to making them for my family next time!

For The Pancakes:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup pecans

Heat skillet at medium heat.  Combine dry ingredients in medium size bowl.  Add wet ingredients, stir together using a whisk.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Measure batter 1/4 cup at a time, pour onto hot skillet.  Sprinkle a small amount of pecans on top of batter.  When you start to see bubbles on top of batter, flip pancakes over using spatula.  Cook until lightly browned on both sides, serve warm with caramel apple topping.

*If you’re not a fan of pecans (or nuts, in general), this recipe is very easy to omit adding nuts to each pancake.

For the Caramel Apple Sauce:

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt butter in small sauce pan at medium heat.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon, stir until dissolved.  Add apple slices, and cook in pan until apples are soft.  Serve warm over pancakes.

Pumpkin Bars

Well, it’s October…which can only mean one thing.  Fall Recipes!  So, for the rest of this month and up until Turkey Day, I’ll be diving into as many Fall Recipes as possible.  To me, Fall Recipes are when we start moving towards the warm comfort foods, but mostly dealing with apples, pecans, cranberries, cinnamon, caramel, gingerbread, and the big one…pumpkin.  So, we’re starting out with some Pumpkin Bars this time around.

pumpkin bars

As the fragrant flavors were swarming through the kitchen when these guys were baking in my oven, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.  Luckily, I had some cream cheese icing left over from a hummingbird cake I made over the weekend to smother all over the top of them, which is exactly what I did.  I cut two pieces for myself and my husband (he shared his with our daughter, since he literally just wolfed down two s’mores cookies), and the two of them polished their piece off…which our daughter started asking for more.  As I was getting  her ready for bed, my taste buds were screaming at me to get another piece.  So, I got into a mental argument with myself over this.  That stuff was so awesome, you know you want another piece.  Don’t do it, you’re already full and you don’t need it!  So, I made the courageous decision to get that stuff OUT of the kitchen this morning.  Taking up space in the fridge is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.  But holy cow, these will DEFINITELY be made again.  Amazing!

For the Pumpkin Bars:

4 eggs

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  In a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until mixture is smooth.  Pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely before topping with cream cheese icing.  Store in refrigerator.

For the Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth.  Add powdered sugar, and continue mixing until smooth.  Spread over top of cooled Pumpkin Bars.