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dessert

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Holiday Snack Mix & Travel with Kids

November 15, 2017

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img_6588This post is sponsored by SC Johnson. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make the content on Espresso and Cream possible. #ZiplockHolidayUAI

Back before I had kids, my visions of weekend baking projects were pretty idyllic and, I now realize, unrealistic. I imagined my child happily cutting out cookie dough and decorating cookies, mess-free. Of course now that I have two kids of my own I know better than to tackle elaborate or time-intensive baking projects. Because Ainsley is bound to lose patience and I’m bound to be picking up a giant mess long after the project has lost it’s novelty. So these days, we keep our holiday baking projects on the simple side and everyone in the family is a lot happier because of it.

We have a few holiday road trips coming up in the next few weeks, including some air travel to visit family in Florida, so I’ve been planning and strategizing on how I’m going to keep not one but TWO kids happy in the car and in the air. My solution: busy bags filled with all sorts of goodies, activities and fun new and inexpensive toys. Because we all know that an entertained child is a happy child.

I headed to our local Walmart last week before music class to pick up a bunch of goodies for our trip, along with the supplies to make this Holiday Snack Mix recipe. Ainsley and I made the snack mix together, then portioned it into Ziploc® Brand Storage Snack bags for our travels. We also tied some of the bags with ribbon for gifting to friends and family.

I filled the Ziploc® Brand Storage Gallon bags with coloring books, crayons, stickers, inexpensive figurines (Ainsley’s favorite!), our homemade snack mix, a few new movies, and more. Hopefully these bags provide hours of entertainment and delight while we are doing our holiday travels!

Partnering with SC Johnson on this post was a total no-brainer for me, because as a mom of littles, I use Ziploc® Brand bags for pretty much everything. I always have at least a few Ziploc® Brand Storage Gallon bags in the car as makeshift trash cans on road trips to keep the car clean and organized and to keep figurines and toys grouped together and keep a bunch in my purse for air travel to contain trash and dirty diapers. Mom hacks all around!

Check out the full (easy!) recipe below. And if you’re a frequent Walmart shopper like me, there are also some great coupons available here.

Holiday Snack Mix
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 10 oz. white almond bark
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 6 cups square-shaped rice cereal
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup red and white candy-coated chocolate pieces
  • Red and green sprinkles
Instructions
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the almond bark, peanut butter and butter on HIGH 30 seconds. Stir; continue to microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until almond bark, peanut butter and butter are melted. Continue to stir until mixture is well combined. Stir in the peppermint extract.
  2. Combine cereal and pretzel sticks in a large mixing bowl. Pour almond bark mixture over cereal and stir until well combined and cereal is evenly coated. Transfer mixture to a Ziploc® Brand Gallon Bag and add in powdered sugar. Seal back and gently shake to coat cereal with the powdered sugar.
  3. Transfer mixture to a flat surface covered with parchment, waxed paper or aluminum foil. Spread in an even layer and add in the candy-coated chocolate pieces. Sprinkle with the red and green sprinkles. Let cool completely.
  4. Divide the mixture into Ziploc® Brand Snack Bags. Tie with ribbon, as desired.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with Walmart.

Healthy Chocolate Mug Cake for One

February 21, 2017

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I don’t care what the circumstances are, every single night I need to end the evening on a sweet note. Truth be told, my body just doesn’t enjoy or tolerate sugar well these days, probably because I don’t eat much of it anymore, but I still have a sweet tooth that begs to be satisfied when Joe and I crash on the couch at the end of the evening.

Usually I try to keep my little nightly “dessert” to around 200 calories and like for it to have some sort of nutritional value, too. Meaning I rotate fruit and Greek yogurt with honey, dark chocolate, a spoonful of nut butter, etc. on the regular. But the other night I was craving something different, and behold this chocolate mug cake was born.

A lot of the recipes that I’ve found on the web for “mug cakes” are actually pretty indulgent and hardly healthy – usually containing plenty of oil or butter, sugar, all-purpose flour and more. Hardly what I look for when I’m going for a healthy dessert.

This recipe comes in around 120 calories without the toppings (I highly suggest a spoonful of peanut butter and some fresh fruit!) and tastes like a dense, rich flourless chocolate cake of sorts. I don’t want to over-promise here, because it is a healthy dessert, but it’s totally crushing my cravings for chocolate each night and doesn’t leave me with a pre-bedtime sugar crash. Total win, right?

Healthy Chocolate Mug Cake for One
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
I LOVE dark chocolate, so two tablespoons of cocoa powder is right up my alley. However, if you prefer a milder chocolate flavor, don't hesitate to use the suggested swap mentioned in the recipe, substituting a little chocolate protein powder for a bit of the cocoa powder.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons Kodiak Cakes Powercakes Pancake Mix (or something very similar)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (for a less "dark chocolate" taste, use 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon chocolate protein powder of your choice)
  • 1 packet Stevia
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Toppings: Peanut butter, fresh fruit, dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped chocolate, etc.
Instructions
  1. In a ramekin or small bowl, combine the dry ingredients until well combined. Add the water and stir until smooth. Microwave 35 to 45 seconds or until the edges are set and center is almost set but the very middle is just slightly gooey looking.
  2. Top with a scoop of peanut butter and fresh berries, or desired toppings as suggested above and enjoy!

 

Brown Butter Chopped Pecan Pie

January 30, 2017

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Good morning, friends and happy Monday! I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging lately, as I’ve had a few conversations with friends who have blogged but now are choosing to close their blogs, to say goodbye to sharing their life online. Or, should I say, sharing more in other formats like podcasts and Instagram rather than a blog.

I’ll admit that sometimes blogging these days feels a little like, “Hello? Is anyone listening?” With all the other choices out there for reading and absorbing information (there are so many!) blogging can seem a little old school. Isn’t that crazy to say? And after blogging for over 8 years myself, I’ll admit that closing this blog has come to mind a time or two.

But can I also admit that I love this little corner of the internet? Oh I love blogging so much. I’ve heard from so many that they stopped blogging and didn’t miss it one bit, but I know that for me this is my favorite creative outlet and I’m itching to share more and more here in recent months rather than drawing back from my site.

So, that was a long preamble to sharing about pie, wasn’t it? I’ve been meaning to share my favorite pie crust for a while but never really got around to it because, well, laziness? I still hope to do a full video for anyone who is intimidated by crust, but this recipe is foolproof enough to work for even a beginning baker. Trust me, I’ve tried dozens of different recipes all claiming to be the best and this one really does take the cake. For the original inspiration and full explanation as to why this recipe works, check out Serious Eats.

Joe recently returned from a trip to El Paso where he was visiting some of his pecan suppliers for work (he buys pecans as part of his job) and brought home more pecans than I have any clue what to do with. Bags and bags of them line our freezer right now, so this is the fourth pecan pie I’ve made in the last couple weeks. We’ve never really been huge pecan pie people over here, but chopping the pecans and adding a little brown butter? Go ahead and sign me right up!

I adapted my recipe over the four attempts from this original from Brown Eyed Baker. More pecans, browned butter, less corn syrup, less vanilla, more salt. You get the idea. I think that this recipe is pretty perfect, but give it a go and see for yourself!

Brown Butter Chopped Pecan Pie
 
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups chopped toasted pecans
Instructions
  1. First, prepare pie crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine ¾ cup of the flour, all the butter, the sugar and salt. Pulse 25 times with short on-off turns. Add the remaining flour and pulse 5 more times to incorporate.
  2. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the water to the flour mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula as you add the water to incorporate evenly. Use the spatula to stir and press the dough together. Once it begins to hold together in large clumps, transfer mixture to a clean work surface and work with your hands into a disc. Don't over-work, but make sure that you work the mixture enough that it fully comes together in a smooth disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F. Roll dough out in a thin layer on a floured work surface. Transfer pie crust to 9-inch pie plate and press into pan. Roll/crimp the edges as desired. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and place sprayed side down into center and up sides of pie crust. Fill foil with pie weights or dried beans all the way to the top of the foil to prevent shrinking during baking. Bake 15 minutes, remove foil and weights, bake 5 minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook, swirling frequently, until butter is lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs and salt and stir until well combined. Return to heat and continue to cook until mixture is hot to the touch. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and pecans.
  5. Transfer hot filing mixture into pre-baked pie crust. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake 45 minutes more or until filling is puffed and crust is golden brown. Cool at least 2 hours before cutting into slices to serve.

 

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

December 6, 2016

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cookies_3First, I need to say a big thank you to everyone who hung with me these last few weeks. I know that service on Espresso and Cream has been very spotty and the site completely crashed in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. But I’m happy to report that the site is now up and running on a brand new server that should be large enough to accommodate Espresso and Cream readers for a long time to come. Whew! 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is cookie baking. I know that there is an abundance of desserts this time of year, and baking goodies at home is hardly necessary, but I couldn’t make it through the month of December without doing at least a bit of baking.

This year Ainsley helped with her first Christmas cookie baking and it was SO fun! I mean, she mainly stuffed frosting into her mouth by the spoonful and only frosted a couple cookies before declaring that she was done, but seeing her participate in a tradition that will no doubt continue to happen for years on end was the sweetest.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about sugar cookies. Specifically how they can be so disappointing in flavor and texture. Some of the prettiest sugar cookies I’ve seen have been the most tasteless and some of the ugliest have been the yummiest. Isn’t there a happy middle ground? Yes, yes there is. These cookies, I like to think, strike a wonderful balance between downright tasty and pretty/cute/fun to decorate, too. Although Royal Icing always gets the best results in terms of looks, I find that it’s just plain gross to eat. And while the powdered sugar and milk combination might be temping because it’s so easy, I think we can all upgrade our game a little bit this year to something that requires just a tiny bit more effort.

The sugar cookies themselves don’t stand well on their own. They are from an old, old Southern Living Christmas cookie book that my mom and I both use every year. If I were making plain old sugar cookies I wouldn’t make these, but once they are topped with buttercream they have the perfect taste and consistency to pull the whole thing off. One tip: I always suggest erring on the side of under baking rather than over baking because I love a soft, chewy sugar cookie, so keep a close eye on these cookies while they bake as oven temps can vary!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
 
The cookie recipe is "Old Fashioned Christmas Cookies" from the Southern Living Cookie Book. I couldn't find this old recipe anywhere online to link to, so I'm sharing it below!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Frosting
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Make the cookies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick baking mat (Silpat).
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugars to the butter and beat 2 minutes more or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until just combined.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Do not over mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
  4. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness on floured surface. Cut into desired shapes and place cookies, 1 inch apart, on baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until just barely golden brown around the edges. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire cooling rack and cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and salt until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add in the vanilla and milk and beat until just combined. Beat in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and creamy. Frost cookies with frosting.

 

Pie of the Week #6 // Apple-Cran-Raspberry Pie

November 15, 2016

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This week’s pie of the week might not be for everyone. Whew. Okay, I feel like I just needed to get that out there before waxing poetic about how much I love this pie, because it’s true. It’s not a pie that everyone will love, but I certainly love it and will be making it more than once this holiday season.

Inspired by homemade cranberry sauce – the stuff you make with real, whole cranberries, not the stuff in a can – this pie is tart and tangy and nearly requires a heavy dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream to balance the tartness of the cranberries, raspberries and apples. The mix of three fruits produces a pie filling with great texture and interest, and while it might not be a home run that everyone can agree on, it’s certainly a pie that my little family can get behind.

I was inspired by recipes I’ve made in the past, and this recipe from Cooking Light, which I tweaked slightly to fit my flavor preferences and the ingredients I had on hand.

Pie of the Week #6 // Apple-Cran-Raspberry Pie
 
Ingredients
  • Pie crust for a 9-inch double crust pie
  • FILLING
  • 2 cups peeled and diced apples
  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • CRUSH WASH
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Coarse sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the filling ingredients until well combined.
  3. Roll out remaining crust and cut into strips. Use strips to form a lattice pattern on top of the crust, going over and under every other strip. Pinch edges of crust to seal together. Trim off excess crust around edges and roll/crimp crust edges to finish.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush mixture on lattice and edge dough and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour more, until filing is bubbly and crust is golden brown. If necessary, cover crust edges with a pie crust guard or aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
  6. Cool completely before serving.