dessert

How to kill a chocolate craving

Have you ever been sitting at home and suddenly had the urge to eat a smallish piece of cake? Specifically chocolate cake. I was craving some chocolatey goodness but I had no cake and it was almost midnight and I wasn’t about to bake an entire cake to satisfy a craving. I looked up mug cakes and found this recipe. Well, I found many recipes but this one sounded the best to me and I had all the ingredients on hand.

The results were delicious and I was very impressed. I love to bake and I do plenty of it but this is the cake recipe you want when you’re in a pinch. I would recommend using a mug larger than you think you will need. You don’t want to lose any precious batter to spillage.

I have made this mug cake twice now. Once with peanut butter and a leftover chocolate easter egg in the center the other with almond butter instead of peanut butter. Both times I added a generous squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the batter. The cake was moist, with a runny sauce in the middle.

Try it!

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Delicious, gluten-free dessert

The holidays are pretty much behind us and it’s time to look to the year ahead. This year, I want to share more savory recipes and as I looked to rid myself of the last of the sugars laying about the house I came up with a dessert that will likely be my go-to whenever I am hosting a dinner.

I love cheesecake, it’s rich, decadent, and refreshing. I had two bricks of cream cheese in the fridge and what better way to use them up than to make cheesecake batter and pour it into a lined cupcake pan? The recipe is simple and all of the ingredients are gluten-free (or can at least be found gluten-free).

The end result is a beautiful dessert that you will be proud to share.

You will need:

16 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, you can also use a hand mixer (if you have strong arms you can even do it by hand with a wooden spoon). Once creamy and smooth, add the sugar and cream together.

It is important that the cream cheese be at room temperature otherwise you will have a lumpy batter.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

Pour into lined cupcake pan. Depending on how much you fill them you should be able to fill 12 slots.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be almost set in the middle but still wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the oven and setting on a cooling rack.

The cheesecakes will deflate a little. Allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Raspberry orange champagne sauce

The cheesecakes are already wonderful as they are but I had some frozen raspberries I wanted to use up so I threw them into a saucepan along with the juice and pulp of one orange. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a generous splash of champagne. I brought it all to a boil and simmered it for a few minutes until it  had reduced a bit.

At this point taste your sauce and add a little more sugar if you feel it needs it. I wanted the sauce to be fresh with a hint of tartness, not sickly sweet.

I then strained the mixture and discarded al the seed and pulp. I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered until it thickened a little. Once I was happy with the consistency I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it into a bowl and placing it in the fridge.

Plating

Carefully, remove the cheesecake from the cupcake wrapper. Place upside down on a plate. This conceals the sunken top part and gives you a flat, smooth surface on which to spoon your sauce. Top with as much sauce as you want and top with fresh whipped cream. I recommend taking the first one you plate up as a little chef’s treat, practice your presentation on this one and modify your approach on the others.

This was my first attempt (too much sauce):

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Never made your own whipped cream before? It’s easy. You need really cold heavy cream and a really cold bowl. I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe. You can add vanilla extract and powdered sugar if you want.

These can be plated a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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5 ingredient crustless cheesecake

It is no secret that I love to bake. I love cooking in general but baking is what I love to share most. Desserts are a great treat. I love them. As I’ve gotten older I have found that I don’t enjoy the sweetness of most commercially produced desserts. A lot of foods I used to enjoy now feel sickly sweet to my palate. This is one of the many reasons I love baking from scratch. The treats I make are always just sweet enough.

Last night, I was in the mood for some cheesecake and so I set out to make my own. This crustless cheesecake requires only five ingredients and the ones it omits results in less calories while still being delicious.

You will need:

16 oz cream cheese (this is a treat so use full fat!) at room temperature

3 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

one lemon

flavoring of your choice: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and eggs until smooth.

Zest your lemon and add as much zest as you would like. I zested about half my lemon and used that. I also squeezed out about half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the zest and juice to the mixture.

Add a quarter teaspoon of almond extract or vanilla extract.

Mix until combined.

Pour into 9 inch glass pie dish.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Edges should be golden brown. When you remove from the oven the cheesecake may be a little puffed up. It will deflate as it cools. Leave it to cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

You can top with fresh berries, whipped cream or the traditional sour cream topping.  I went with a lemon slice 😀

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Cookie Thursday

There are few things better than a cookie. I find cookies to be such lovely treats. They’re single servings of deliciousness. I asked my cousin to pick out a cookie recipe for me to make and send to her and she picked a real winner! When she showed me the recipe she had picked I was excited as I had never made any type of sandwich cookie before.

This recipe from Joy of Baking.com is delicious. I have mentioned before that this is my favorite recipe site as the recipes are always easy to follow and often have videos to go with them. These cookies are similar to Oreo cookies. The cookies have a rich semi-sweet chocolate flavor and the cream is sweet and smooth. I used less sugar than the cookies called for because I wanted the cream to compliment the cookies not simply add to the sweetness. I like my chocolate to taste like chocolate not sugar, but that’s a personal preference. Cutting back the amount of sugar is optional and it’s an option I exercise in almost every recipe.

For the cookies:

1 cup (240 ml) semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces (170 grams) semi sweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup (226 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature

3/4 cup (150 grams) white granulated sugar (I used about 1/2 a cup)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purposeflour

3/4 cup (70 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch processed)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

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What the dough should look like once it has come together.

Be sure to check out Joy of Baking.com for the complete recipe (including the cream filling) and detailed instructions as well as a video of this recipe!

I personally, could eat these cookies on their own without the cream BUT the cream is such a great addition. I did not bother to make my logs perfect when I rolled up the dough so the cookies did not turn out perfectly round. You could spend more time on that, but like I have always said about home made: I want it to look as such. To me, that’s the best part.

As a side note, whenever I bake I try to use the best ingredients available to me. They really do make a difference. However, when baking we need to also keep in mind our bottom line. I have found that chocolate is an ingredient I will always splurge on as long as I can afford to, as well as vanilla extract. I refuse to use the imitation stuff. It’s just not the same. In my kitchen I tend to favor the following brands in my baking:

  • Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • King Arthur Flour (unbleached, all purpose)
  • Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chocolate (either chips or in bar form)
  • Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

I hope you found this post helpful.

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Hidden gems: Margate, Florida

Margate is probably not a city that is on most tourists’ radars. I had never heard of it before I moved here in 2006. I would say that Margate is an up and coming city. It is only seven and half miles from the Atlantic ocean, and in close proximity to excellent shopping as well as other attractions. Margate is also home to JM Lexus, the #1 volume Lexus dealer in the world since 1992 (in case you enjoy random trivia). Here are three hidden gems that I love:

La Bamba Restaurant

Maybe it’s the happy hour specials, maybe it’s the complimentary chips and salsa, or maybe it’s the food. This place is always busy. The food has never disappointed me. It is always consistent. Service is prompt and friendly, and the bathrooms are clean. What more could you want? La Bamba has become our unofficial celebratory hangout. Whenever something big is happening in our lives we end up here. Partly because it’s a stone’s throw away from home but it’s also just that good! Birthday dinners are almost always celebrated here, when we found out we were expecting we celebrated with a nice La Bamba dinner, after our 20 week ultrasound where we found out we were having a boy we also ended up here. This restaurant has become our place and we love it. The Margate location has been in business for 25 years. It is a family owned business founded right here in South Florida by the Molina family. They have grown to five restaurants, each managed by a Molina. Their lunch and dinner specials are great and their portions will not leave you hungry. If you’re in need for a quick lunch look no further than La Bamba. Their lunch portions include a soup or a soft-drink and range in price from $6.50- $9.50. In the interest of research, I took my family out to lunch and timed their service. Less than 10 minutes from the time we ordered our food, we were already enjoying it. Good food at a good price in a casual atmosphere that is what La Bamba means to me.

La Bamba II storefront

La Bamba II storefront

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Pollo a la plancha

Pollo a la plancha

Baby palomilla steak

Baby palomilla steak

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Ritter’s Frozen Custard

Located at 6700 W. Atlantic Blvd, this franchise was founded in Franklin, Indiana and can now be found in several states. Florida is lucky to be among those. Their special custard is creamy and decadent, and their flavors are delicious. While I prefer vanilla, my sister-in-law swears by their rum raisin, and her husband really enjoys their banana. With their varied menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and late hours I don’t think you can ever go wrong at Ritter’s. Any day is a good day for ice-cream here in Florida but summer evenings are probably the best time to enjoy a cone, cup or sundae. On Monday’s they host a night just for dogs and on Wednesdays they have a kids night complete with bounce houses and face painting. photo 1-12 photo 2-12 photo 3-10 photo 4-8 photo 5-5

 

Coral Gate Park

Coral Gate is our favorite park. It might not boast as many features as other parks but it’s peaceful, safe, clean and convenient to us. Their three half basket ball courts are always busy on weekends, and their four tennis courts get plenty of use regularly. There is a small field perfect for kids to run around as well as a playground. photo 2-11 photo 2-10 photo 5-4 IMG_3771 IMG_3445 IMG_4233

 

When RelayRides contacted me about writing a blog post featuring hidden gems in my community I was immediately inspired visit some of my favorite places. Revisiting old faves is great but discovering new gems is just as awesome!

RelayRides is one such gem, and an idea I wish I had thought of. My husband had mentioned the company to me a couple of years ago when he was considering listing one of our cars. We have since become a one car family but the idea behind car sharing is an amazing one. The service is pretty simple you can either list your car, or find a car to rent. You search by city or airport and once you’ve found a car you like you book it! The company has a $1,000,000 liability policy so as a vehicle owner you’re very well covered. For more information check out their how-it-works section right here. Sharing cars works because we don’t need a car all of the time and the less cars on the road the happier our environment. I think it is the future, and it’s not limited to renting while traveling. Sometimes we need a larger car or truck to haul a large purchase, and renting a car is a great way to get things done without having to pay delivery fees.

I  hope you enjoyed these hidden gems. If you’re ever in town, pay them a visit, and if you’re not go out and discover some hidden gems of your own.

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peanut butter cups

A couple of weeks ago I was happily watching television when I decided that I wanted a peanut butter cup. I didn’t want just any peanut butter cup. I wanted one I had made myself. As I made a mental calculation of what I had in the pantry (peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and semi-sweet chocolate chips) I became increasingly excited about making them.

I headed into the kitchen with nothing but my hunger. I did not use a recipe. The first thing I did was whip about a cup of peanut butter with about a tablespoon of powdered sugar. I used my stand mixer for this. I let it get nice and fluffy and light in color. Once this was done I set it aside.

I then set up a double boiler in order to melt the chocolate. I am not sure how much chocolate I used but I would say it was probably about a cup and a half of chocolate chips. I also added a tablespoon of butter and a splash of vanilla extract. I also added a teaspoon of cooking oil. Once this was melted I set it aside.

I did not have any cupcake liners around so I lined a silicone mini cupcake pan with wax paper. I then spooned in some chocolate into the bottom of each well and left to cook for a couple of minutes in the freezer. I then piped in the peanut butter using a zip top bag. Because the peanut butter was so light and fluffy I found this the easiest way to do this. Spooning it in, although doable, seemed too messy and time consuming.

Once again, I put them in the freezer to set a bit then topped them off with a chocolate later. The result is a solid chocolate outside, with some peanut butter peaking out here and there. When you bite into the cup the peanut butter oozes out as it doesn’t set into a solid.

I absolutely loved them and plan to make them again soon.

I hope you will give these a try.

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