Monday, March 26, 2012

Chocolate Covered Raspberry Cheesecake Bites

I promise that we really do eat good, healthy, regular food at our house, even though I've been posting all these sweets and treats lately. I had to make a dessert for an activity, so I looked through my "to-make" files and decided on these that I found at Life's Ambrosia. I love chocolate covered cherries, but I decided to change it up just a little and use raspberry pie filling instead and ruin the whole chocolate covered cherry thing. I thought it might be less bumpy on top and I love raspberries too.

I gotta say that these were a pain, but maybe partly because I was in a hurry and didn't get to freeze the cheesecake for long enough before dipping in chocolate. Des does warn you on her recipe that it's messy. I needed more chocolate than the one bag. I guess I didn't let the chocolate drip off enough to conserve more for the other pieces.

You might think that cutting an 8-inch pan into 40 pieces gives you teeny-tiny pieces, but the smaller, the easier they are to dip. And the chocolate added on top makes them a good little size. You see that cheesecake bite I cut in half for the photo? I just had to eat it since it was cut and to approve it before giving it away. Yummmm! Don't you just love mini desserts?
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cheesecake Bites
2 c. Gingersnap cookies, crushed
1 T. butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:
2 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1 can of cherry or raspberry filling

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. shortening

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a 8-inch square glass pan with foil, be sure to cover the sides, you are going to use this to lift the cheesecake out of the pan.

Combine the melted butter and gingersnap crumbs and press into the bottom of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

While your crust is cooking, in a medium bowl combine all of the ingredients for the cheesecake filling. Mix until creamy and smooth. Pour into the crust. Bake for 40 minutes or until the center is set. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 40 minutes.

Put the cheesecake in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove and spread the cherries on top. Now put the cheesecake in the freezer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove and slice into approximately 40 pieces. Melt chocolate with shortening right before you pull the cheesecake out of the freezer.

Using a fork gently poke the cheesecake bites and dip them in the chocolate, using a spoon to make sure they get completely coated. Set them on a cooling rack with wax paper underneath to catch the chocolate. You may want to spoon some over the top to cover your fork marks. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

My children and I love soft pretzles. I've wanted to try to make them for a long time, but since I'm not good with yeast, I hadn't until last week. I just have a little hand mixer so mixing bread isn't as easy as turning on a stand mixer and watching it mix while you clean up. Since I don't have much experience, kneading by hand didn't work like it should have and we didn't get a smooth dough like you see at the mall. The kids helped cut the bites. They are kinda lumpy and inconsistent, but they tasted good.

I found the recipe at Maria and Josh's Two Peas and Their Pod. I didn't try the cheese sauce or the cinnamon-sugar variation, but they both sound good.   

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites 
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 T. light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 t. kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 c. all-purpose flour
Canola oil
3 qt. water
3/4 c. baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 T. cold water
Coarse sea salt

Cheese sauce: ½ T. unsalted butter
½ T. all-purpose flour
½ c. milk
8 oz. Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Serve with cheese sauce.

To make the cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Variation: Cinnamon-sugar pretzel bites
     Instead of adding salt, sprinkle the bites with cinnamon and sugar. For the frosting, mix about 3 tablespoons soft cream cheese, powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a little bit of milk. Whisk together. Add more milk if it is too thick, if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. (No exact measurements)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do I Please God?

If you have read many of my pondering posts, you may realize that I think often about what I need to do to become a better discliple of Jesus Christ. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has written many talks on the subject so I have used many of his quotes. I continue to learn as I re-read and re-ponder his words on the subject.

I had this part of an article saved in a file that I was reading today. As I was reading, four main points stuck out to me. You will find those four points in bold (bold added by me) as you read the quote.

"Shouldering the yoke of discipleship greatly enhances both our adoration and knowledge of Jesus, because then we experience, firsthand, through our parallel but smaller-scaled experiences, a small but instructive portion of what the Savior experienced. In this precious process, the more we do what Jesus did—allow our wills to be 'swallowed up in the will of the Father'—the more we will learn of Jesus (Mosiah 15:7). This emulation directly enhances our adoration of Jesus.

"Simultaneously, in this same process, the more we become like Jesus, the more we come to know Him. There may even be, more than we now know, some literalness in His assertion, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Matt. 25:40). We lack deep understanding of the implications of that remark of Jesus. As with so many things, He is telling us more than we are now prepared to receive.

"The Prophet Joseph Smith, writing redemptively to his rebellious brother, said to William, 'God requires the will of his creatures, to be swallowed up in his will.' The Prophet Joseph then pled with William to make 'one tremendous effort … [to] overcome [his] passions, and please God' (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. Dean C. Jessee [1984], 115). Alas, William didn’t do it, just as some of us fail to overcome our passions and thereby fail to please God. We are too busy pleasing ourselves.

"In contrast, meek Enoch reached a point in his discipleship, wrote Paul, when he received a testimony that he pleased God (see Heb. 11:5). Ponder that. One can come to that point where one knows that he or she pleases God."
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Becoming a Disciple", Ensign, June 1996, pp. 12-13

It's a fairly short quote, but has so much in it!

1) This emulation directly enhances our adoration of Jesus.
    When we model our behavior after our Savior's, not only can our behavior change, but our heart changes. We love him more. We want to be even more like him than we did before. We are even more grateful of his sacrifice and love.

2) We lack deep understanding of the implications of that remark of Jesus. As with so many things, He is telling us more than we are now prepared to receive.
     I have never thought it was difficult to understand that when we are helping someone, we are also serving Jesus. But we are told here that there is more to the scripture than we can currently comprehend. There is so much I don't know and don't understand, but to be told it is "more than WE are now prepared to receive" means even the scholars may not fully understand it. 
    We do know that in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the sheep will be blessed for their service to others and the goats will be cursed for not helping their neighbor.
Jesus with Lamb by Mary duCharme

Matthew 25: 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  

 Also the opposite is true. When we mistreat others through our words or actions, we are mistreating our Savior. We may cringe thinking of those people who whipped, mocked, spit on Jesus, but we may sometimes treat others badly and maybe even think they deserve it. The way we treat others is how we treat Jesus, literally.

3) 'God requires the will of his creatures, to be swallowed up in his will.'
     As a natural man, we have our own will. As we grow spiritually and progress, we can work on our will being closer to the will of our Father. It is not always easy, especially in times of trial, to give up our view of our lives for something better. That "better" is the will of our perfect, all-knowing Father. When trials come in our lives that aren't a result of our sin, the Lord is helping us grow and become more like him. He can even help us grow through our mistakes if we change our hearts and follow his will. How do we know his will? Through the Spirit which we can feel when we fast, pray and ponder and by reading the inspired words in the scriptures, and listening to the words of our prophets and bishop and stake president. The Sprit will not tell us to do something contrary to the commandments and our covenants.
4) One can come to that point where one knows that he or she pleases God.
    We don't have to wonder if we are on the right path for our lives and if our efforts are pleasing to God. We can know by the Spirit testifying to us that what we are doing is God's will. We can know by the true peace and happiness that only comes from living a righteous life. Our interviews with our church leaders for a temple recommend help us to review many of the things we should be doing. We may know the gospel, but if we don't live it, that knowledge is useless. It is even more important to become what he wants us to become than just to know what we need to know.   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Swirled Lemon Raspberry Poundcake with Raspberry Glaze

I can describe this cake in two words--- "Dangerous Stuff!"

This is so, so moist and has two of my favorite ingredients, lemon and raspberries. I am trying to eat relatively well, but I made this to give some to a friend and some to the kids and I just wanna eat it all. Even Sabrina, who won't usually try new desserts, likes it. One of my new favorite cakes, thanks to Juliana at Piece, Love, & Cooking. The recipe has the word swirled in it and Juliana's looks marbled, but the directions don't say to marble it so I didn't think about doing it. I did the glaze a little differently. I tried a bit of cake with and some without any glaze and it was great both ways.   

Swirled Lemon Raspberry Poundcake with Raspberry Glaze

For the Poundcake:
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-oz.) pkg. of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. lemon curd
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 Eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 T. lemon zest
3 T. lemon juice
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

For the Raspberry Filling:
1c. frozen raspberries
1/4 c. raspberry jam
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. powdered sugar

For the Raspberry Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 T. raspberry filling
1/2 c. raspberry jam
2 t. lemon juice
3 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla  

Preheat the oven to 325° and spray a Bundt pan with Pam, and then set aside.

To Make the Raspberry Filling: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Break up any large raspberry chunks. Once the mixture has come to a bubble, remove from the heat and let it cool completely before adding it to the cake.

To Make the Poundcake: In a mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and lemon curd. Pour in the sugar and mix until fluffy and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each one until it is incorporated before adding the next egg. Next, add in the vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat to combine. While ingredients are mixing, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add this flour mixture into the wet mixture. Mix until just incorporated.

Layering & Baking the Poundcake:  Put 2 T. raspberry filling aside for use in glaze. Pour ¼ of the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth it over, making sure it is completely even. Next, spoon half of the cooled raspberry filling on top of the batter (try to keep the filling in the middle, so that it doesn’t spill out while baking). Repeat by topping the filling with ½ of the remaining batter and smooth once again. Spoon the rest of the raspberry filling over the batter and finally top with the remaining ¼ of the Poundcake batter. Smooth one last time. You should have three layers of lemon Poundcake separated by two layers of raspberry filling. Bake the cake for roughly an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before pouring on the glaze.

Combine the powdered sugar, raspberry jam, milk, zest, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until it is completely combined and smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake. Let the glaze harden for 15-20 minutes before you cut and serve. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dinner with Awesome Blogger Friends

Women Washing Clothes by a Stream by Daniel Ridgway Knight

We are so blessed with wonderful conveniences that make our lives easier, like washing machines, dishwashers, cars... They are so wonderful, but we also make our lives even busier with other things because those are taken care of. Long ago in America (and still in some countries), women used to meet at the river and wash their clothes, spending the time chatting with neighbors and friends.
Women Washing Clothes by a Stream by Paul-Camille Guigou

As our lives have become more busy, they often become less social on a daily basis. Women need to talk to other women. That isn’t to say we don’t need the wonderful men in our lives, but there is this need too. We love bonding with friends, talking, being understood, supporting, laughing, crying, laughing, eating.
La Seine à Vernon by Daniel Ridgway Knight

We no longer meet at the river, but many of us have found a special way to bond and socialize—blogging. I have loved getting to know unique women through reading their blogs and their comments on my blog. It’s even dearer when you get to meet them in real life. It’s amazing how connected we can feel to other people who may be very different from you and how much you can admire their differences.
Back row: JennyAnn MarieJulieCherieSandra, Tauna,  Kimmie, 
Front Row: Shelia, KarieKeely, Karen, Nicole (with a private blog), Me, (another) Valerie 
Click their names to visit some awesome blogs! We all came together in Salt Lake from different parts of Utah, Idaho and Washington.

I had a great opportunity (thanks to Cherie, who organized it) to meet up with these fellow bloggers for dinner at Biaggi's. Good food and we kept the poor waiters busy.
I have met a few of them before and have been blogger friends with several others for a couple of years. There were a few women whose blogs I hadn’t even read yet. But we all had a great time together laughing, talking, eating, supporting, and more laughing. What a great group of women! And four hours was not enough time to visit with everyone enough. I think we should have played musical chairs to get to sit near other ladies and talk to them more too. I’m already thinking of organizing a get together with other ladies who didn’t get to go to this one, and any who did, but wanna come again. So let me know if you'd like to be included.
One thing I thought was funny is that I am 5'2", so very short, but look at the height of everybody in the group pic up there compared to me. A bunch of not so tall ladies.

I wish I would have taken more pictures. A few people took photos with their camera with me at the end so hopefully I'll get a copy those pics eventually.
This dinner was on Saturday. That week I had two exams. As a matter of fact, I traveled straight from the testing center to the dinner. Because I spent the whole week studying, I didn’t have any time do make everyone a treat, like I would have loved to do. But some other ladies did.
Tauna’s famous chocolate. Kimmie’s cinnamon almonds. Shelia brought these delicious O’Aggie Bars from Logan and Valerie gave us these bright cookies and a pretty coaster she made. So nice! And I found out that if you bite the head off of Tauna’s chocolate covered cinnamon bear and take a bite of Kimmie’s almonds and eat them in the same mouthful, they taste super.

Speaking of the merits of blogger friends, I just read Camille’s fun post at Make It Work Mom (who I have met too) about the same thing so I jump over there if you didn’t already read it: Bloggers are Gross, Obese and Have Halitosis
Of course, I had to steal Cherie's picture since she was the only one to get a silly photo of us all. (Sorry to block you every time, Tauna!!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookie Cups

For our big family party to celebrate all the February and March birthdays, Alexander wouldn’t choose what dessert he wanted. He said he loves all the desserts I make so he didn’t care. That was fun because it meant that I could choose to make a new recipe. He loves peanut butter, so even though I just made a peanut butter dessert recently, I wanted to make these pretty little cups that I found at Blissfully where Picky Palate posted them. I haven’t been able to find Mini M&M’s for baking for a while now. Does anyone know if they are still around? I miss them. I just used regular ones for these.

They made a gooey mess when I cut into them for the photo and the same thing happens when you bite into them. I know one way to avoid that-- Pop the whole big thing in your mouth at once.

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookie Cups
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
12 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped
36 mini marshmallows
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
2-3 T. heavy cream
1/4 c. mini M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350°. Place peanut butter, sugar and egg into a large bowl and mix until well combined. Scoop dough evenly into a 12-count mini cheesecake pan or mini muffin pan. Cook for 13-15 minutes until almost done. Remove from oven and press a peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie until flush with cookie top.

Top each cookie with 3 mini marshmallows and return to oven for 2-3 more minutes or until marshmallows are puffed. Remove and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Place chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until melted smooth. Stir in 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream until silky and smooth. You can return back to microwave for 15 seconds to get a thinner consistency. Spoon chocolate over top of puffed marshmallows and sprinkle with mini M&M’s.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chocolate Pomegranate Bundt Cake

Made this super-delicious, moist cake for Alexander's 16th birthday. I would love to share some photos of the birthday boy, but I have been unable to post photos of my children because of some privacy concerns. (Don't know if you've noticed.) Totally disappoints me since my blog is to share the joys of my life and there is no greater joy than my family.

But baking is one of my joys and eating is another, so I'm sharing this cake that I found at Baking Bites. It has lots of sugar so it's sweet, and quite a bit of pomegranate juice, which makes it moist and goooood. I made a little glaze with powdered sugar, milk and almond extract and poured it on. Then I topped each individual piece with whipped cream and chocolate covered craisins that I made. I would have made chocolate covered pomegranate seeds if I had them, but these were really good too. I wish I dipped more of them. 
Chocolate Pomegranate Bundt Cake 
2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. pure pomegranate juice

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Whisk cocoa powder into melted butter until smooth. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, so mixture is warm but not hot. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Add chocolate mixture, pomegranate juice and chocolate chips to the flour mixture and stir until batter is well combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes, then turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool.
Dust with cocoa powder or confectioners’ sugar before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coconut Chicken Fingers

Have you ever had coconut shrimp? I'm allergic to shrimp so I never have, but it looks so good to me. So when I saw this recipe (on a website that has since disappeared), I wanted to make it. I love coconut and having it in a savory dish sounded really good, and it is. I dipped them in Winger's Sauce, which I bought at the store. And it's baked, not fried. Next time I'll try a mango dipping sauce recipe that sounds really good with coconutty chicken.
Coconut Chicken Fingers

1 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1-2 eggs 

Mix all dry ingredients together. Mix up an egg in a separate bowl.

Dip chicken fingers in egg, then coconut mixture and place on a shallow baking pan. Once all the chicken is coated, melt 1/3 cup of butter and drizzle it over the top of the chicken.

Now bake these in a 400° oven  25 to 30 minutes, turning all fingers over after the first 15 minutes until golden brown.

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...