Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Pretzel Button Snacks

April 4, 2012 6 comments

This is a quick snack that is perfect for parties. Hopefully there is enough time for you to try them this Easter weekend. This is also a versatile recipe with all the different flavors of Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s that are now available. The flavor combinations are almost endless! There are also lots of new candy colors that make this an especially cute snack! If you want to coordinate with party colors, you can even order special colors of M&M’s from their website (


  • I tried these with Rolos and pecans. Not bad for a “quick turtle” candy treat. Sprinkle with a little flake salt for an extra sweet and salty treat.
  • Spelt pretzels are also very good in this recipe for people on a wheat-free diet! I like the spelt pretzels from Newman’s Own.
  • Removing the wrappers from the Kisses takes the most time (aside from the cooling).  To save time, you can use jumbo chocolate chips, sometimes found in the baking aisle.  They won’t be as chocolatey, but I bet they would still be delicious. 
  • You can also use chocolate disks or wafers found at cake supply stores (like Lynelle’s in Huntsville). 
  • Future experiment:  I think mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would be delicious, but I’m not sure how they would look (not that it really matters, since the taste would be so good!).
  • I don’t think the peanut M&M’s are as “cute” as the regular sized M&M’s, but they still taste good!

 Pretzel Button Snacks

1 bag pretzels (squares are perfect; round, or traditional also work)

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (most any flavor would work)

1 bag M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces (most any flavor would work)

Preheat oven to 300º F.  Line a baking sheet (preferably with sides) with parchment paper.  Cover with a single layer of pretzels.  Place a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each pretzel. Carefully move the baking sheet to the oven.  If you jostle them too much, you might end up with lopsided pretzel buttons (not that I did this or anything :-).  Bake for about  2½ to 3 minutes. Watch them while they cook; you don’t want them too melted.  You want them just melted enough to hold an M&M.  Remove baking sheet from the oven.  Immediately, press an M&M into each melted Kiss so it looks like a button.  Don’t press too hard or chocolate will squish everywhere. Allow the chocolate to harden before storing or serving.  You can either do this at room temperature (if you have enough time) or in the refrigerator (if you have enough space).  Store in an air-tight container.

Date Nut Bars

March 14, 2012 8 comments

I have been sick for the past week, so I’m a little slow with posting.  Haven’t really felt much like cooking or eating either.  However, now I’m taking medicine that must be taken on a full stomach.  I’m not a huge fan of eating in the morning.  I love breakfast foods, but there is something about eating them early in the morning that is unappealing. I get this honestly from my mom.  Having these tasty date nut bars around should make it easier to eat in the morning so I can take my medicine.

This is another adaptable recipe.  You can make them wheat-free or vegan.  If you don’t like walnuts, use pecans or another nut.  Not a fan of pumpkin seeds, then just use sunflower seeds.  Want real butter or coconut oil instead of canola oil, go for it. If you want them for dessert or a snack bar, feel free to add a few chocolate, carob, butterscotch, or peanut butter chips.  Don’t want to grind flax seeds? You can use sesame seeds or whole flax seeds.  You can add other spices – ginger, cloves, or cardamom.  If you love vanilla, you can add that too. Ok, I’ll stop now; you get the point.

I included substitutions in parentheses for most of the ingredients. Don’t let that limit you though.  This is a fun, easy recipe, so play around with it…

Date Nut Bars

Dry ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats, not instant or quick

¼ cup gluten-free flour blend (or regular flour)

¼ cup maple sugar crystals (or date sugar or brown sugar is fine)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon (or pumpkin pie or apple pie spice blend)

pinch of salt

¼ cup ground flax seeds (or whole flax seeds or sesame seeds)

1 cup walnuts, chopped (or almonds or pecans or hazelnuts or cashews)

½ cup dried raisins (or cranberries or cherries)

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup dried, unsweetened coconut (or shredded sweetened coconut or coconut chips)

Wet ingredients:

½ cup dried dates (or dried apricots or dried figs)

⅓ cup canola oil (or butter, coconut oil, or vegetable oil)

¼ cup peanut butter (or almond butter or cashew butter)

¼ cup maple syrup (or honey or agave or golden syrup or molasses)

3 tablespoons hot water

Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Combine the dates, oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, and hot water in a food processor.  Process until it is a thick paste.  Pour this date mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix well. 

Press into a parchment or foil lined 9”x13” pan (I sometimes use a rolling-pin to make sure it is pressed down firmly). Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Carefully lift the parchment or foil to remove the bars from the pan. Cool on racks.  Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Italian Dinner Menu – Dessert!

February 10, 2012 2 comments

This is the last recipe from our Italian Dinner: Apricot Almond Cake with Pine Nuts.  Whew, now I can move on to something else :-). The other dessert from the dinner was a salted caramel panna cotta.  I’ve already posted the recipe (you can search for it using the handy search field on the top-right of the blog).  Cooking for so many people caused a few refrigerator space issues, especially with the panna cotta.  I wanted to use my great-nanny’s sherbet dishes, but they were not practical because I couldn’t stack them in the refrigerator.  So, I made the panna cotta in tiny jelly jars (Yay to Lewter Hardware for having the 4-ounce jelly jars). Popped on the lid, screwed on the ring, and stacked away – space issues solved!  The mason jars were not only practical, but they were cute!

I wanted to serve a non-gelatin dessert, so I decided to bake a cake.  Well, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make one large cake or cupcakes.  Then I decided to also bake them in jelly jars.  Oh my gosh, they were cute!  But like a goofball, I forgot to take a photo of the cakes.  I just have a photo of the platter with all the mason jars and spoons (cakes are on the bottom row).  Baking in the jars worked well, I might never make traditional cupcakes again!  Here’s the cake recipe:

Apricot Almond Cake with Pine Nuts

½ cup almonds (whole, chopped, sliced, or slivered)

¼ cup pine nuts

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup dried apricots, finely chopped or minced

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1½ sticks butter, melted

⅓ cup half-and-half (or milk)*

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional garnishes:  almonds (sliced, chopped, or slivered), pine nuts, powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 345º degrees F. Butter and flour ten 4-ounce jelly jars or a 9” cake pan. You might need a few more or a few less.  It depends on the final volume of your batter.  This can be influenced by how much you beat the eggs, the humidity, most anything.

Toast the almonds and pine nuts in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Ensure that they don’t burn. After they are toasted, remove them from the pan and let them cool.  Cool completely. You can save some time by using nuts that are already toasted. 

Combine the cooled almonds and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  But be careful, since this can quickly turn into nut butter (not good for this recipe).  Transfer the ground nuts to a medium bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well. Add the apricots and stir again.  Tossing the apricots in the dry mixture will hopefully prevent the apricots from sinking to the bottom. But be aware, sometimes they just want to sink, not matter what you do.  And that’s ok, because it still tastes delicious!

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until it is thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes on medium-high.  Add the cooled melted butter, half-and-half, almond extract, and vanilla. Gently fold in the dry ingredients by hand. Do not over mix or you will have a tough cake.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan or mason jars.  If you use the jars, pour the batter up to the line, like you would if you were making jelly.  If you want, sprinkle the top with more almonds or pine nuts.  Bake until the cakes are done and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes. Baking time depends on your oven and the size of your containers.  Let the cake(s) cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if you want.  This cake is even better the next day – prefect for a late breakfast with a cup of coffee!

*We usually don’t have milk at the house, but we have half-and-half for coffee.  If you don’t want the heaviness of the half-and-half, you can use about ¼ cup of half-and-half and about 3 tablespoons of water to make the ⅓ cup of dairy.  Or you could use soy, coconut, or almond milk.

Possible flavor variations:
– If you don’t have dried apricots or don’t like apricots, you can use dried cranberries.
– Add some lemon or orange zest for a nice kick.
– Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Vegan option:
I tried to make this recipe vegan (substituting a combination of coconut, canola and olive oil for the butter and coconut, soy, or almond milk for the half-and-half).  But I had a problem finding a suitable egg substitute, since the eggs seem vital to the texture.  Not sure an egg substitute would work in this particular recipe.  But if anyone experiments with a vegan version, I’d love to hear about it.

Sweet Fall Treats

October 29, 2011 4 comments

Fall is my favorite season.  I love most everything about it (except for fall allergies).  I especially love cooking in the fall – soups, stews, breads, most anything with butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and apples.

This is another short post, wanted to share some of my favorite sweet treats that I make in the fall.  I know Halloween is in a few days, but these recipes are quick and easy (well, the first two are). Maybe there’s enough time for you to try them for a fall festival, cakewalk, Halloween party, or bake sale.  They are also delicious throughout the year.

Pumpkin Quick Cake
My friend DeeDee first told me about this cake.  Those who know me know that I can’t leave well enough alone and had to tinker with her recipe.  It is still a work in progress and feedback is appreciated.  This is perfect when you need a last minute dessert.  It can be made as a sheet cake, frosted with cream cheese frosting or served plain. You can also bake in loaf pans (then you can eat it for breakfast, because it’s just like bread!).  You can add nuts, dried fruit, or keep it plain and simple.  The most difficult part of this recipe is finding the spice cake mix at the grocery store!  When I find it, I buy a few to keep in the pantry for last minute baking.

1 (18.25 ounce) package Spice Cake Mix
1 (15 ounce) can Pumpkin
2 Eggs
¼ cup Water
¼ cup Butter, melted
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Ginger
¼ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cloves
2 ½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan (or you can make cupcakes/muffins or small loaves).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the spice cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, water, butter, and spices until well blended.

3. Spread evenly into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.  Frost with cream cheese frosting if you want or you can serve it as is.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  Tastes even better the next day.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes
This is an adaptation of one of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts – Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Chocolate Ganache Swirl. This is a mini version using Oreo cookies for the crust and omitting the chocolate swirl. We are going to a Halloween party this weekend and were asked to bring something “festive.”  Hope the bright orange Halloween Oreos and jack-o’-lantern cupcake liners make these festive enough. Guess if I wanted to be really festive, I could decorate them with candy corn, candy pumpkins, or a spider web with a candy spider.  Yeah, probably won’t happen.

1 package Halloween Oreo Cookies*
16 oz Cream Cheese, at room temperature (2 regular or 1 regular and 1 Neufchatel)
½ cup Sugar
1 cup Pumpkin (if you use just under a cup, then you can make two batches from one 15 oz can of pumpkin.  Nah, I didn’t make my own pumpkin puree, this is a quick recipe)
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (or use cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg)
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Eggs, at room temperature 

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. This recipe makes between 24    and 30 mini cheesecakes.

2. Place a cookie in the bottom of each cup. 

3.  Beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with electric mixer.  Scrape the bowl frequently and beat until smooth.

4.  Add the pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.

5.  Add one egg, beat until well blended and then add the second egg.  Beat until smooth.

6.  Fill cups with pumpkin cheesecake mixture.

7.  Bake approximately 20 minutes or until centers are just set. Cool completely on racks and then refrigerate overnight. 

*NOTE:  After baking these and testing them, I realized the Oreo is too much cookie for my taste.  So, next time, I will experiment with thin Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers.  This is the cookie I use to make the crust of the full-size cheesecake. They are like the chocolate cookie of the Oreo, without the filling.   However, Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers can be tricky to find in grocery stores, kind of like spice cake mix.  Often, they are located near ice cream toppings.    Another option is to split the Oreo and just use one half of the cookie for the crust.


Sweet Potato Chocolate Walnut Cake
The original recipe was given to my Mom and Dad by a nice, elderly woman on Monte Sano Mountain.  Wish I could remember her name, very sweet woman.  She originally got the recipe from Victory Garden in the late 1980’s.  I’ve made a few changes to it, but still have her original recipe…it is well-worn and much-loved!

2 cups Mashed Sweet Potatoes (usually 3 large potatoes will do, either baked or boiled and then mashed or hand-blended until smooth)
1½ cups Vegetable Oil (I use canola)
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1½ cups Sugar
3 cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Ginger
¼ tsp Cloves
½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
½ cup Chocolate Chips (optional)
1 cup Walnuts, chopped and dredged in flour
4 oz. Melted Semi Sweet Chocolate

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat sweet potatoes, oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a separate bowl.

3. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on low-speed until blended.

4. Fold in chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

5. Pour about 1/3 of the cake batter into a separate bowl (for less clean up, use the bowl from sifting the dry ingredients).  Add the cooled, melted chocolate. Mix until blended.

6.  Grease and flour a large tube pan.  If you don’t have a tube pan (maybe because it was bent in a move, not like that’s happened to me or anything), you can use a bundt pan and then use the extra batter for a small cake, mini loaves, or muffins.

7.  Place the batters into the pan(s), alternating between the two types.  I typically use a measuring cup to place dollops of batter.  Use a knife or wooden spoon handle to swirl the two batters, making a marbleized effect.  Last time I made this, I skimped on this step and just poured the plain batter in the bottom of the pan and dolloped the chocolate batter on top.  I swirled it, but it was not swirled enough, so instead of a marbleized, swirly look, I got a two-tone look. Not quite as pretty, but still tasty. 

8. Bake for about 70 minutes (for the tube pan) or until a toothpick comes out clean.