White Chocolate Pistachio Cranberry Pretzel Bark

Perhaps the longest recipe name ever, but it’s descriptive so….ok.

white chocolate bark

Look at those colors! Maybe the prettiest bark I ever did see.

This is one of those non-recipe recipes, but I do provide measurements in case you need a guideline.

White Chocolate Pistachio Cranberry Pretzel Bark 
2 bags white chocolate chips
1/3 c. shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/2 c. pretzels, broken
1/3 c. craisins
Line a cookie sheet with sides with wax paper (I used a 9×12 for thick bark; larger will just produce a thinner chocolate layer). Melt the white chocolate according to package directions, then pour and level in prepped cookie sheet. Sprinkle toppings over chocolate and lightly press down toppings to help secure in chocolate. Let the chocolate set on the counter or in the fridge for a couple hours until completely cooled and hardened; break/cut into pieces.
white chocolate bark 5
white chocolate bark 3
It’s a tasty as it is pretty. Creamy, sweet white chocolate, tart and salty.
This “recipe” is so forgiving, as any bark recipe is. It’s basically: melt chocolate, put yummy things on top, cool, break, eat. I wanted a thick chocolate base so I used two bags of chips and my smallest sheet pan, but either use less chocolate chips or a larger pan for a thinner base. The amount of the toppings is totally dependent on the size of the pan you use and how covered you want your chocolate to be – though too many toppings will not stick into the chocolate, eventually. The measurements I provided are pretty accurate to what I used, and after they were all on I lightly pressed down on the top-most toppings to help secure them in the chocolate. Some still got loose when I was cutting it up, but I’m not ashamed to say I was then able to pour the leftovers into my mouth via the wax paper afterwards. Ok, so I’m maybe a little ashamed – the baby made me do it.
white chocolate bark 4
white chocolate bark 2
Almost too pretty to eat – but not quite. Just take a picture – it will last longer 🙂
Enjoy!
{Justine}
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strawberry cream cake with lemon curd whipped cream filling

cake

soooo this cake. this cake i made for easter. this. cake. is. delicious. i can’t stop thinking about it. actually, i can’t stop eating it, in a way. the cake is gone, but i only just used up the last of the leftover frosting (you’re welcome, coworkers). and that lovely pink frosting? out. of. this. world. insane. i thought my lemonade frosting was my favorite ever, but i think this one has edged it out. i may or may not have eaten a good 1/4 cup of it on its own over the life of the frosting.

hidden inside the strawberry cream frosted strawberry cake is a layer of fresh whipped cream folded with homemade lemon cured dotted with fresh cut strawberries. i know.

slice

this cake is a hybrid of recipes, and there’s several components, but it’s all worth it.

first make the lemon curd, so it has time to set in the fridge. i used martha stewart’s recipe.

bake your cake, make your frosting and the filling, then assemble:

strawberry cream cake & frosting
recipe from sprinkle bakes (pinned from sweet teeth), adapted from allrecipes

yield: one triple-layer 8-inch cake, or one double layer 9-inch cake. serves 10-12.

cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
3 oz. package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree (i just put some strawberries in a blender with a smidge of sugar and pureed)

1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  grease three 8-inch round cake pans (or two 9-inch) with shortening and line with parchment. grease parchment; set aside.
2. cream together the sugar, strawberry gelatin and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. beat in eggs one at a time.  whisk together flour and baking powder in a separate bowl; stir into the batter alternately with the milk.  add vanilla extract and strawberry puree; mix until incorporated.  divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
3. bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

frosting:
8 oz.  package cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tbsp. strawberry flavored gelatin
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ cup fresh strawberry puree
1. combine the cream cheese, butter and gelatin in a medium bowl; beat together on high speed with an electric mixer.  when well combined, add the powdered sugar; blend on low until the sugar has been incorporated.
2. add strawberry puree.  mix again on low; when fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting until lightened and well combined.

you can use the frosting as the filling, but i love the combination of lemon and strawberry, so i made fresh whipped cream then folded in lemon curd (so it was lighter and not as tart).

lemon curd whipped cream filling
1/2 cup whipping  cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
prepared lemon curd (again, i followed this recipe)
1/4 cup sliced/diced fresh strawberries (optional)

1. in a cold, clean steel bowl, whip whipping cream until soft peaks form.
2. add sugar and vanilla and whip to incorporate until stiff peaks form.
3. gently fold in lemon curd.

assemble the cake with the whipped cream filling between the layers, dotting it with fresh chopped strawberries. make sure to not bring it to the edges as the top layer of cake will squish it outwards. frost the outside. arrange fresh strawberries on top (optional).

refrigerate cake if not serving immediately.  bring refrigerated cake to room temperature before serving. refrigerate any leftovers.

cake

of course i have disclaimers, just so you know what you’re getting into and that it’s ok not to be perfect:

-the texture of the cake was denser than i imagined (not as dense as a pound cake, but getting there), but it was delicious regardless – in fact, my dad thought it was better denser than a normal, fluffy cake. (looking at the original cake recipe source – allrecipes – others mentioned this and had some solutions if you prefer fluffiness).
-the amazeballs frosting is very soft (perhaps i didn’t use enough powdered sugar, but that’s typical for me) – so make sure to keep the cake and any leftovers in the fridge. i didn’t try to pipe it, but i imagine that because of the softness, it wouldn’t hold its shape very well. while getting to room temperature, the frosting on the side of the cake may have slid down a little. again, delicious regardless.
-i need practice with layer cakes. i put a bit much filling in  and/or put it too close to the edges, so it squished out of the cake, making a nice bulge and mess of the frosting. i refrigerated, frosted, refrigerated, frosted a couple times. again, delicious regardless.

have i mentioned it was delicious? sorry. but seriously. it seems like a lot of steps, and, well, it was, but well worth it. if nothing else, make the frosting. buy a box mix of whocares and slap the frosting on there. or don’t even make anything, just eat it. (though i happen to know that it tastes great on angel food cupcakes and lemon cupcakes).

have a great weekend.

{justine}

git in ma belly {homemade christmas gifts}

three cheers for almost being done christmas shopping.  all i have left is gifts for two more people (yes, that means almost done to me) and more time in the kitchen to create my favorite kind of gift – homemade and sweet. homemade sweets are a great, personal (and  economical) gift for everyone on your list, from neighbors to friends to party hosts. (i always have a hard time parting with all my delicious efforts, so i make sure to make extra)

here’s what i’m whipping up this year, for both my own belly and gifts.

salted caramels

salted caramels {recipe here}. goodness. because these are my favorite ever and a big crowd pleaser, i made a double batch. there’s some cream left in my fridge, and i have several people to give these too, so i’m contemplating another. maybe i’ll even try dipping some in chocolate once cut (and the sea salt will be sprinkled on once dipped).

pretzels

chocolate covered pretzels. you can’t go wrong. although i think i did go wrong with choosing the mini twists instead of the rods, as it takes me approximately a minute per pretzel since i prefer store-like perfection with no chocolate in the middle holes, which as you can see i didn’t achieve for all. i’ve done two small white chocolate batches so far, and plan another batch of both white chocolate and milk chocolate.

for those not in the know, they are really easy. simply melt your chosen chocolate according to package directions (i’ve done both microwave and a bowl over simmering water), dip pretzels (fully or partially) in chocolate, either dip in toppings or sprinkle toppings on top and let cool on wax paper. i’m a huge fan of sprinkles and also topped some with crushed candy canes (highly recommended).

peppermint bark brownies

peppermint bark brownies. i saw this recipe in real simple, thought it was a great idea, then couldn’t remember where i saw it and couldn’t find the recipe when it came to making them last weekend. i winged it and they turned out so delicious. however, i wasn’t very happy with the cracking of the chocolate that occurred when cutting. they weren’t as neat as i hoped for, but the taste made up for it.

to make them, according to the recipe (and how i made them): make your favorite brownie recipe or favorite box mix (ghirardelli is preferred here). once cooled, melt white chocolate chips (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups) according to directions and spread on brownies. top with crushed peppermint pieces.

what i would change: apply the chocolate and peppermint pieces and cut when the chocolate has dried a little but is still soft ( i ended up putting my brownies in the oven for a minute until the chocolate softened to help lessen the cracking). or, cut the brownies then spread the melted chocolate on the individual brownies and top with the peppermint pieces.

chocolate candy

ingredients

chocolate candy

laurie’s chocolate candy. my mom’s friend gave her this recipe many years ago, and it’s one of my all time favorites. i tried to think of another name for it, but came up short, so laurie’s chocolate candy it remains. there’s nothing particularly christmasy about these, but i never make them except for christmas time. i need to change that.

this recipe is super easy and fast. these cover all the bases: sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy. i’ve made a 1/2 batch already (um, to eat by myself) and plan on making another full batch to gift.

laurie’s chocolate candy
(makes about 60 pieces)

1 ½ packages almond bark (chocolate)
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup raisins
2 cups rice krispies
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups dry unsalted roasted peanuts (i used lightly salted and it was fine)

measure and combine all ingredients in a bowl except for the chocolate and peanut butter. melt chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave in a large bowl, following package directions. add the remaining ingredients to the chocolate and peanut butter mixture, stirring until well mixed. drop spoonfuls of the mix onto wax paper (work quickly) and let cool.

bite

to package your delicious gifts, consider putting them in clear bags tied with festive ribbon. they’re simple yet pleasing as-is, or go one step further (especially if you’re giving multiple types to one recipient) and put your packaged candy in a:

  • pretty bowl or mug
  • cookie tin (or multiple tins stacked on top of one another tied with a satin ribbon)
  • bakers box adorned with twine or ribbon (i found some at the container store for about 99 cents)
  • gable box (also found at the container store for $2)

packaged caramels

candy box{salted caramels and pretzels in a bakers box with festive tissue paper}

bakers box{love this gold wire garland ribbon}

gable boxes

ornament and garland{i also tied off some of my gifts with a small ornament for an extra touch}

or go one step even further, like you are my fave, and turn an empty tinfoil box into a fabulous treat box with wrapping paper, brads and twine.

tinfoil box

are your christmas gifts bought, made and wrapped? do you have other homemade gifts you like to give? please share!

{justine}

linking to the centsational girl, remodelaholic

2 (and a 1/2) ingredient pumpkin muffcakes + brown sugar cream cheese frosting

fall is the time for pumpkin flavored everything, but i have to admit, i’ve never been a huge pumpkin fan. on thanksgiving i always opt for the apple pie over the pumpkin pie. though as with many food items i haven’t been besties with in the past, i’m coming around and changing my tune.

this recipe, originally from the big red kitchen, has been getting around on pinterest (what a sloot), but the first review i read about it was on erika’s urban grace blog, and i was convinced that i had to give it – and pumpkin – a shot.

is so easy peasy squeezy it’s ridiculous. it’s also healthy (minus the frosting i add). and extremely genius.

cupcake

the recipe is originally a pumpkin bread, but i baked it in cupcake form. the texture is a bit more dense than airy, so it’s more muffin-like. but i frosted them with a delicious brown sugar cream cheese icing, which makes them cupcake-like. let’s split the difference and call them muffcakes (which sounds kind of dirty).

pumpkin muffcakes

1 box cake mix (i used yellow; spice, chocolate – whatever you wish)
1 15-oz can 100% pumpkin puree (plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
heaping 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (may be omitted, but increases the flavor of pumpkin)

(note: do not use the oil, eggs or water as indicated on the cake mix. only the pumpkin. this is the genius and healthyness of it).

preheat oven to 350 degrees. mix all ingredients together well. pour into prepared cupcake tins (either greased or with liner). bake for 17-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

recipe notes:
-this made me 16 cupcakes. i used a full-sized ice cream scoop to measure into my tins. they rose a lot, so you can fill them only about 1/2 way, and you will get more cupcakes (and you may need to decrease the cooking time a little).
-the batter will be thick and sticky. this is normal.
-i made these again 2 days later for work, and added in about a 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. yum!

brown sugar cream cheese frosting

1 1/4 sticks butter (10 tablespoons), softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed (optional: an additional 2 tablespoons or so)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar

cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute. add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated. add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated. turn off mixer and add 1 cup of powdered sugar. mix on low speed until incorporated so it doesn’t fly out of the bowl. taste and slowly add more powdered sugar until you reach your desired sweetness. if you want a more pronounced brown sugar taste (like me; brown sugar is my favorite ingredient), add another tablespoon or two of brown sugar (but not too much, it will become grainy) and mix well.

recipe notes:
-this generously frosted 16 cupcakes, and i had some left over.
-i don’t like my frosting too sweet, which is why i love cream cheese frosting. but it can’t be too cream-cheesy either. i like to know its cream cheese, but not feel like i’m eating cream cheese. huh? it makes sense to me. so you may need to add even more powdered sugar, if that’s how you roll.

mmm{look at that gorgeous color!}

when i brought these over to a friend’s house, her mom told me she uses this same ‘trick’ for pancakes — adds pumpkin puree to the dry pancake batter instead of eggs/milk, etc. it would make a delicious fall breakfast! i’m thinking it would go great with a glaze instead of syrup.

muffcake

these cupcakes are super moist, and have such a great flavor. you can taste the pumpkin, but it’s not too strong. and cream cheese icing makes everything better – especially when it has brown sugar, the most magical ingredient on earth.

my second time making them, i used these totally cute cupcake liners that i snagged at home goods. love them! (but it was hard to not get the batter or the frosting on them, so they’re not the cleanest).

take 2

have you tried this 2 1/2 ingredient recipe yet? are you a fan of pumpkin? let me know if you have other must-make pumpkin recipes to further convert me to a pumpkin lover.

{justine}

linked to remodelaholic, mommy by day crafter by night, southern lovely and between naps on the porch

weekend recap {amen for labor day}

there is nothing better than a long weekend. i salute you, labor day, (and my company’s awesome holiday time) for giving me a 4 1/2 day weekend. though i had a cold (in the summer! rude) i managed to have quite the nice weekend.

ryan and i kicked off the long weekend with drinks and, um, 4 kinds of fried food — wings, fried green beans, tator tots and fried mac and cheese (one of the best things on this earth). we blame the two-for-one deal for our piggyness (there were leftovers, thank goodness).

martini{martini’s were on special, too. note to self: you’re not a martini girl. wowzer they’re strong.}

fried food

i have never been more grateful for the invention of air conditioning after friday (aka the hottest and most humid day ever) when i was outside for 8 hours working an event for a friend’s company.

powerwheels{powerwheels for the kiddos at the event. i never saw so many teenagers want to get in a 2 mph car.}

saturday was a bit more relaxing and less sweat-inducing, though my kitchen did get quite hot as i was a baking machine. i had some ripe bananas needing to be used, so i made banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and banana bread.

bananers

cookies

banana bread

and then because i hadn’t used enough butter, i made chocolate chip cheesecake brownies topped with trader joe’s fleur de sel caramel sauce (which is out of this world amazing) for a bbq. the bbq was complete with delicious food, beer pong, bags and lots of baby time (of the course the baby was my photo focus).

brownies

book time

bags

baby time

paxton and i

paxton

book time

sunday i was dragged off the couch to go to top golf again. it was a good time, and my golfing improved slightly, but i was struggling with my cold. that night was spent on the couch watching a movie with the husband who caught my cold.

top golf

brooke & pax

golf

monday i enjoyed the crisp air during a walk around my neighborhood, where i did some shopping, had an outdoor lunch and found my new favorite spot — a by-the-pound candy store. i was in heaven but (slightly) contained myself.
i also finally finished my gallery wall with a silhouette painting of my bestest friend.

mugs{i loved these mugs at anthropologie. but i don’t need more mugs and didn’t know what else to use them for so i didn’t take them home. let me know if you have an idea so i can go back for them}

lunch

keep calm

candy

painting

did you have a great weekend? i hope so!

until next time…

{justine}

the perfect chocolate chip cookies

people. i found my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, ever.

i love dessert, and cookies are top notch, but i would have a hard time saying chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. delicious? yes. my favorite? eh. but now…things may have changed. this recipe may have changed my entire life. ok, maybe i exaggerate. but only a little.

cookies

i have made these cookies two weekends in a row. once, for a bbq at a friends place (with leftovers, yay), and this past weekend because there were only two left in the cookie jar and i couldn’t bear the thought of not having one to eat after dinner (just one, still trying to lose weight). my point is, they’re delicious.

and get this–you don’t even need a mixer. just a whisk, spatula and biceps.

cookies


perfect chocolate chip cookies
recipe from cook’s illustrated and america’s test kitchen

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 ¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ¾ sticks)
½ cup granulated sugar (3 ½ ounces)
¾ cups packed dark brown sugar (5 ¼ ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

  1. preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven rack in the middle position.  line 2 large (18×12 inch) baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl and set aside.
  3. heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in 10-inch skillet (if possible, do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl.  stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  5. add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.  add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.  repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
  6. using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.  stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  7. divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons.  arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  8. bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.
  9. transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

to me, what makes this cookie perfect is the browned butter. it’s not just butter, it’s more than butter. it’s…browned butter. and it’s fantastic.

the dough is the best dough i’ve ever had, hands down. luckily i end up with not enough dough to make another cookie and i go to town. raw eggs be damned.

it’s chewy yet crisp, with chocolate in every bite and hints of caramel from the browned butter and brown sugar. it’s perfect.

a couple notes:
-the first time i used semi-sweet chunks and (non toasted) pecans. delicious. the chunks were a hit.
-the second time i used what was left of the chunks, what was left of some semi-sweet  chips and some milk chocolate chips to top it off. and no nuts. delicious.
-i’m a big fan of using my cookie scoop to ensure equally sized cookies and less mess on the hands. it holds 1 1/2 tablespons, so this recipe yielded me about 32 cookies. i baked them for approximately 10-11 minutes. i’m sure the larger size will ensure softer cookies, but i’m very happy with the crunch to chewy/softness of my cookies. and i’m happy that there’s more cookies to go around.

i know chocolate chip cookies are a very personal preference. everyone has their own favorite recipe. but try these and they may change your life! or at least your chocolate chip cookie preference.

in semi-related news, i discovered this video through dooce. i almost peed my pants.

{justine}

 

linking to remodelaholic