Mini Chocolate Swirl Cheesecakes

Last weekend while our families were in town, Erajh and I had the idea of inviting everyone over for dinner on Friday night before Greenleigh’s party on Saturday.  We quickly set a menu, determined who would make what, and decided that we would have dinner on our back patio (due to our ridiculously small kitchen and dining room).  Erajh would grill and I would make the side dishes and dessert.  But then it rained.  Really hard.  For a long time.  So much for our plan to have a leisurely meal on the patio.  We quickly moved the dinner inside and began to rearrange our plans.  Then the repair man came to fix our hot water heater that had “exploded” the day before – a post for another day, just know that a good portion of my upstairs and downstairs was soaked for much of the weekend…  In short, it was chaos, and desert was forgotten.  For that day at least.

But I just couldn’t stop thinking about this recipe for mini cheesecakes that I had found a while ago.  Even if I didn’t have a crowd of people to bake for, I decided to just try it – then I would know if they were really that good.  Could cheesecake really be that easy to make?  I’ve never made a cheesecake before, so I wasn’t sure.  Best to try it first, right?  I decided to change it a bit, making my own Oreo crust for the bottom, but stuck to the recipe for everything else.

You will need:

2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 Tbsp lemon juice

melted butter

10-12 Oreo cookies

cupcake liners

Step 1 – Preheat oven to 375.  Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.

Step 2 – Crush Oreo cookies until fine.  I used my small Cuisinart’s “Grind” function to do this, but I’ve heard others just crush the cookies and it turns out just the same.  The Cuisinart definitely saved me some time though – forty-five second and they were done!

Step 3 – Add melted butter to the finely ground cookie crumbs.  I didn’t use any specific amount, I just added butter until the mixture started to stick together.  It didn’t take more than 2 tablespoons or so to get it to the perfect consistency (although as you can see, I originally melted much more than that).

Step 4 – Spoon the cookie crumb crust mixture into the cupcake liners and press down firmly using the back of a spoon.  You want it to be firmly packed.  I actually did this while the liners were still in the pan, but took one out so you could see how it is firmly packed.

Step 5 – In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and well blended.  Add the eggs and lemon juice, then continue mixing.

Step 6 – Spoon the cream cheese mixture into each muffin pan, filling each cup 3/4 full.

Step 7 – Bake for 6 minutes, then remove from oven.  Drop chocolate chips into the cream cheese batter and allow 1-2 minutes to melt.  The original recipe said 4-5 chocolate chips, but I used lots more than that…I love chocolate.  Once melted, swirl using a knife or a tooth pick.  Put back in oven for another 9 minutes.

Step 8 – Remove from oven, take the mini cheesecakes out of the pan, and allow to cool.   Store in the fridge until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

It turns out cheesecakes really can be that easy – minimal ingredients, 15 minutes in the oven, and hardly any mixing time at all!  The only thing I would change about this recipe is the baking time or temperature.  Mine weren’t burned, but many of them came out a bit more toasty than “golden brown”.  It could just be my oven, but in the future, I will reduce the cooking temperature to 350 degrees or reduce the time by 2 minutes.  I will be making these again!

Comfort Food: Four Cheese Mac n’ Cheese (with Bacon!)

Those who know me, know that I can’t turn down a bowl of mac n’ cheese.  It’s my comfort food.  After a long week, I often want nothing more than to make a box of mac n’ cheese and relax in front of the television.  I also have a pretty intense love for bacon.  I mean, who doesn’t?  My goal has been to try a new recipe each week, so when I saw this recipe I knew it was perfect for me us.  Plus, the estimated preparation and cooking time was under 45 minutes, which is great for a week night meal.FourCheeseMacNCheesewithBacon

What you will need:
1 box of corkscrew pasta, 1 lb.
8 slices of bacon, diced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 tsp onion flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 pound (8 oz.) of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4 oz) shredded colby-Jack cheese
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
8 slices Kraft Deli Deluxe American Cheese

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray broiler safe baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a 13×9 glass Pyrex baking dish.

Step 2 - Bring large pot of slightly salted water to boil.  Add corkscrew pasta and boil for 8 minutes.  Drain pasta when cooked.  While the pasta is boiling, cook bacon in a medium sized sauce pan until crisp.  Remove from sauce pan and place bacon pieces on paper towel.  Pour off drippings, leaving approximately 2 Tbsp worth of drippings in the pan.  I estimated this amount.  You could remove all drippings then return 2 Tbsp if you want to be more precise.

Step 3 - Add flour to the medium sauce pan with the drippings.  Whisk together until smooth.  It was at this point that I realized I not used a sauce pan, but instead was using a saute pan.  It made whisking until smooth difficult, but it all worked out.

Step 4 - In a thin stream, whisk the milk into the flour mixture.  Gradually stir in onion flakes, salt, and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer an additional 2 minutes.

Step 5 - In a large bowl, toss together cheddar, colby-Jack, and mozzarella cheeses.

Step 6 - Remove milk mixture from heat; whisk in American cheese slices and 1 1/4 cups of the cheddar mixture.  This seemed odd to me, and I wondered how the slices were going to whisk in, but they melted and mixed in very easy.

Step 7 - Add bacon pieces to the remaining cheddar mixture.  Mix well.

Step 8 - In pasta pot combine milk/cheese mixture and cooked pasta.  Stir until Pour half of the pasta in the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese/bacon mixture.  Pour remaining pasta in the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with remainder of the shredded cheese/bacon mixture.

Step 9 - Bake for 20 minutes.  Without removing the baking dish from the oven, change setting to broil, and broil for 3 additional minutes.  Top should be slightly browned.

I purchased my cheese in the pre-shredded pouches to save time, but even with doing that, this recipe ended up taking closer to an hour than 45 minutes.  I generally try to keep my week night meals under 45 minutes, but the taste makes it worth the extra time.  I expected this to have a heavy cheddar taste, but you can really taste all the different cheeses.  Plus, the corkscrew pasta made it interesting enough that even Greenleigh wanted to try it. I ate this as a meal, but it would also make a great side dish at a large family gathering.

Perhaps the only thing missing in this recipe is a breadcrumb crust on the top…I will definitely try to add one the next time around.

Recipe of the Day: Red Velvet Cake Balls

A few years ago, a good friend of mine brought red velvet cake balls to our New Years Eve party.  They were a total hit.  I asked her how she made them and she began to tell me, but they seemed pretty labor intensive.  My baking skills are pretty basic and my time is extremely limited, so I quickly decided it wasn’t the recipe for me.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I saw this recipe for red velvet cake balls on one of my favorite recipe websites, Gooseberry Patch.  Lately, I’ve been sticking to fall recipes, but I just couldn’t wait  to try this one.

What you will need:

1 box red velvet cake mix & the ingredients listed on that box

1 container cream cheese frosting

melting chocolate (regular or white)

Step 1 – Make cake mix as instructed on package in a 13×9 pan.  Take out of the oven and cool.

Step 2 – Crumble cooled cake into a large bowl and stir in cream cheese frosting.

Step 3 – Roll the mixture into balls and place on a cookie sheet.  The recipe says they should be the size of quarters, but mine were a little bit bigger.  Put the cookie sheet in the fridge and chill the cake balls for several hours or over night.

Step 4 – Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Dip/drop the cake balls in the melted chocolate and make sure they are completely covered with chocolate.  Once coated with chocolate, place on wax paper, and wait until the chocolate firms up.  I put mine back in the fridge for about an hour.

These are amazing!  I brought a few to work with me on Friday, and every person who tried them loved them.  I then brought a couple of extras to my daughters’ daycare when I picked them up and got the same reaction.  Definitely try these if you get the chance!  Plus, a few of these in a cute tin from the dollar section at Target would be a great holiday gift.

Reminder!

Have you entered my blog giveaway yet?  I wish you would.  If you haven’t already, please click here and enter!  Thanks so much!

Easy Peasy Molten Lava Cupcakes

While I love all things fall, my husband is a bit of a traditionalist.  When I made the Apple Cider Muffins last weekend, he agreed they were good, but wanted to know if I would be making something chocolate for him.  Of course, I hadn’t planned on it, but I had a few cake mixes in the pantry so I grabbed one of those to make him chocolate cupcakes.  As I opened the box, I saw a recipe for these molten lava cupcakes on the back.  Naturally, I had to try it.

You will need: (makes approx. 24 cupcakes)

3/4 cup regular whipping cream

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 box of devil’s food cake mix

1 box (4 serving size) chocolate fudge instant pudding and pie filling mix

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 container chocolate frosting

powdered sugar

Step 1 – In a medium saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium-high heat until hot (but not boiling).  Stir in chocolate chips until melted and mixture is smooth.  Mine had a lot of air bubbles, but was smooth when stirred.  Remove from heat and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Step 2 – Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour muffin pans.  I forgot to flour, but it still worked out.

Step 3 – In a large bowl beat cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, and eggs with an electric mixer on low-speed for 30 seconds, then on medium-speed for 2 minutes.  And yes, I know my trusty dusty mixer is a million years old, but it works great.  I just can’t justify getting a new one right now because it still works so well.  I know I have had it since college…at least.

Step 4 – Put 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup.

Step 5 – Remove chocolate mixture from the fridge.  Spoon 1 tablespoon cold chocolate mixture on top of batter in the center of each muffin cup.  I don’t recommend removing the chocolate mixture from the fridge until this step.  I took mine out of the fridge after an hour and it warmed up while I was doing steps 2-4.  I ended up having to put it back in the fridge and chill it all over again.

Step 6 – Bake for 20-23 minutes.

Step 7 – Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 minute before removing from pan.  I ran a knife around each of the muffin cups to loosen the cupcakes before taking them out of the pan.  Once removed from pan place cupcakes on parchment paper.  Allow 10 minutes to cool.

Step 8 – Frost cupcakes and dust with powdered sugar.  Serve warm (and preferably with ice cream!).

I’ll admit – I thought I was in over my head on this one, but I was wooed by the fact that it had very few ingredients and the instructions were pretty basic.  Despite being a little nervous, they turned out perfectly.  The hardest part was waiting for the chocolate to chill in the refrigerator for an hour, but that is only because I’m impatient.  Honestly, they are probably the best thing that I have ever baked!

Recipe from Betty Crocker

Project of the Day: Apple Cider Muffins

When I saw this recipe for Apple Cider Donut Holes on one of my favorite blogs, I immediately thought, “I must try that!”  While I had most of the ingredients at home already, I didn’t have a mini-muffin pan, so I was going to have to change things just a little.  Here is the recipe I used:

Things You Will Need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 egg, lightly beaten

2/3 packed brown sugar

1/2 cup apple butter

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup apple cider

1/2 cup light sour cream

3 Tbsp Canola Oil

Icing (optional):

1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp of apple cider.

Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 350.  Place muffin cups in muffin pan or grease muffin pan.

Step 2 – Put the 1 cup of apple cider into a small sauce pan at medium heat to reduce.  I had never reduced anything for a recipe before, so this was new to me.  I left the apple cider on medium heat until it started to bubble, then lowered the heat to medium-low.  Once reduced to 1/3 cup, remove from heat and set aside.

Step 3 - Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a small/medium mixing bowl.  Set aside once well blended.

Step 4 - Whisk together the lightly beaten egg, brown sugar, apple butter, maple syrup, cider, sour cream, and oil in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the dry ingredients previously blended in Step 3.  Mix only until moist. (I used a whisk to do this, but I took a picture just as I was about to spoon it into the muffin pans, so that is why where is a spoon in the bowl.)

Step 5 –  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full of batter.

Step 6 – Place muffin pans in the oven for about 18 minutes.  These muffins don’t require a lot of time to bake, but make sure that they are fully baked by putting a toothpick in the center when they first come out of the oven.

Step 7 – Remove muffins from pan and place on wire racks.

Step 8 (optional) - Mix 1 cup confectioners sugar with 2 Tbsp and dip the tops of the muffins in the icing.  Return to wire racks.  (Please note, the Elmo muffin liners are required!)

Lots of ingredients, but very simple recipe.  I’m so happy with how they came out, too – absolutely delicious.  The only thing that I might change is adding only one tablespoon of apple cider to the confectioners sugar for the icing.  My icing came out a little thin, as you can see in the second picture, and I’m pretty sure this could have been avoided by adding less apple cider.  Still delicious, just not as pretty.

I’m so happy it is finally October and I can justify all of this fall baking.  I don’t care if it’s still 80+ degrees outside, it’s fall in my house!

Slow Cooking Saturday

A culinary mastermind I am not.  I wish I could be one of those moms that makes every meal, or even just a majority of our meals, from scratch.  If only I had the time.

When I saw Michelle at I Heart Publix post this super easy Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe from Passionate Penny Pincher earlier this week, I thought, “Hey, even I can do that!”.  Unfortunately, it would have to wait until the weekend.  So here it is, my weekend project:

If only I had taken a picture of the finished product.  It was delicious, easy to make, and I have plenty left over for lunch tomorrow.  Plus, my house now has the heavenly aroma of chicken tortilla soup.  Definite bonus.

But what about desert?  Michelle at I Heart Publix came through for me again when she posted this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes earlier today.  So yummy.

I now leave you with 3 reasons why cupcakes are the perfect food:

  1. Completely portable with very little mess;
  2. Perfect icing to cake ratio; and
  3. Because they are small, you can eat at least 2 and not feel guilty.