Caramel Apple Cake

We celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday this past weekend, so I had to make her a fabulous cake.  Because she loves cakes with caramel and fruit, I decided to make her this Caramel Apple Cake.  This cake tastes like a real caramel apple with nuts, plus some butter, sugar, heavy cream, etc.  This cake is definitely not low-fat, but birthdays are wonderful excuses to splurge (in moderation of course).  This cake is sure to put you in the mood for fall!  Enjoy!

Ingredients For The Apple Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325-degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice together into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
  5. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

For The Caramel Sauce:

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color ( or it reaches 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat, add the butter and cream, and stir until combined.
  2. The caramel sauce can be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Let it come to room temperature before using.

For The Caramel Buttercream:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Caramel Sauce

Directions:

  1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add 4 cups of powdered sugar and mix until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.
  2. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk and beat for 3 minutes.   Add the caramel sauce and mix to combine.  If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, add milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

To Assemble the Cake:
Place one of the cakes, bottom-side up. Put a thin layer of caramel sauce on top and spread the caramel buttercream on top. Next, add the last layer of cake, bottom-side up.  Frost as you did with the first layer and ice the sides.  Use the remaining caramel to spread (or drizzle) over the top. Press chopped peanuts gently into the sides.

*Adapted from The Great Cake Company

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Brie w/Fresh Figs, Honey & Hazelnuts

It finally feels like fall (or fall for D.C. standards)!  Several days ago, I made this delicious appetizer for the hubby and I to munch on: Brie w/Fresh Figs, Honey, & Hazelnuts.  Fresh figs are amazing, but do not grace the grocery stores enough in this area.  When they do, I make sure to buy them and enjoy as many as I can.  Creamy brie paired with a fresh fig drizzled in honey and hazelnuts is perfection.  This is such a simple appetizer to make… enjoy fresh figs while they last!

Ingredients:

  • 1 wedge brie cheese
  • 6 fresh figs, stems removed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup of hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • Drizzle of honey

Directions:

  1. Place cheese in the center of a serving plate.  Drizzle honey over cheese and top with hazelnuts and figs.  Serve with fresh bread or crackers.

 

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Olive Bread

The hubby and I were recently invited up to our friend’s beautiful beach house in NY.  We had a wonderful time, fabulous weather, and amazing food!  One of the breads we had was an Olive Bread stuffed with delicious Kalamata olives.  We loved the bread so much that I decided to try baking it when we got home.  I have a bread baking cookbook and knew I had seen a recipe in there for olive bread.  This bread recipe is simple because it doesn’t call for a sponge and you can bake it in one day.  This recipe yields two loaves — enjoy one and freeze the other!


Ingredients:

  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.  Add the oil, flour, and salt.  Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed, 5-7 minutes.  Add a little flour, so the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and sprinkle the olives over the top.  Knead the olives into the dough, briefly and gently.  Form the dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow dough to rise, 1-1.5 hours.
  3. Punch down the dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead briefly.  Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half.  Cover with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Shape each dough into a tight round loaf.  Tuck any olives that fall out back into the dough.  Place the loaves on the baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel.  Allow to rise for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450.  Lightly dust the tops of the loaves with flour.  Using a knife, slash a diagonal line from one end of the loaf to the other end.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 425.  Bake the breads until they are golden brown and hollow when tapped, about 25-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Yield:  2 loaves

*Adapted from Essentials of Baking

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Morning Glory Muffins

It’s September which means it’s my favorite time of year!  Even though it’s still 86 degrees outside and the official autumnal equinox isn’t until September 22, it’s fall in my book as soon as Labor Day passes.  Fall is my favorite baking season by far; you can’t beat pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, caramel, concord grapes, figs, etc.  I love all of those flavors, and I’m obsessed with Yankee candles that come in any of a variety of those flavors.  In fact, I just bought a new one this past weekend.  I don’t know about you, but I have to smell every single flavor about 3 times before making my final decision.  I finally went with Spiced Pumpkin, which smells like Beak and Skiff in a jar (an apple orchard near my parent’s house in Syracuse).
In lieu of my excitement over the start of the fall baking season, I made Morning Glory Muffins.  Morning Glory Muffins have shredded coconut, apples, and carrots.  They taste similar to carrot cake and are oh so delicious.  I upped the nutritional value by decreasing the amount of sugar and adding flax seed meal.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup ground flax meal
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flax meal.  Add the carrots, pineapple, coconut, and apple and stir to combine.  Add the eggs, applesauce, and vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. With a cookie scoop, divide the batter among two 12-cup muffin tins, 1/2-full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn them out to cool for another 10 minutes.

*Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

 

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Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Each week, I bake cookies for my hubby that he brings to work for lunch.  He loves cookies and I love baking, so it works out nicely.  I try to bake different cookies every time to keep things interesting.  Sometimes I run out of ideas, so I check Pinterest.  I found these Oreo Cheesecake Cookies, so I decided to give them a try.  What’s great about this recipe is that you don’t need an entire package of Oreos for the batch.  This is obviously great because it means you’ll have a batch of Oreo Cheesecake Cookies and 1/2 a package of Oreo cookies when all is said and done.  These cookies are scrumptious and probably taste better than they look.  There’s no baking soda or baking powder, so they’re rather flat.  However, what they lack in fluffiness, they make up for in taste.  Enjoy!


Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well-combined.

3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until the ingredients are well-combined.  Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.  Stir in 1/2 cup crushed Oreos with a rubber spatula.

4. Place the remaining 1/2 cup Oreo cookie crumbs in a small bowl.  Roll the cookies into 2″ balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs (Make sure you roll the cookies large enough because they will not rise). Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet and press down with your palm. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges and bottoms are golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.  Yield:  12-15 cookies.

*Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

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Energy Bites


I’m back from a wonderful vacation!  It’s always hard to get back into the swing of things, especially work.  My job has been rather crazy, so what better way to boost my energy than with these Energy Bites.  These energy bites are so delicious, you’ll want to eat the entire batch.  You can add whatever type of nut butter you like.  I used peanut butter, but sunflower butter or almond butter would be tasty too.  You can also add whatever type of baking chips you like.  I love to eat a few of these bites on my way to work or for an afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Method:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Once chilled, roll into 1″ balls and store in the refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Yield:  About 20 balls

*Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

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It’s Almost Time for Vacation!

 

Top 10 Things on my Maine To-Do List:

  1. Eat lobster – Lobster is $3.99 a pound right now.  Enough said!
  2. Sleep in – No more setting the alarm for 5:40.  I’m going to sleep until my heart desires!
  3. Climb a lighthouse – There’s a famous one within walking distance to our house, so I’m planning on making at least 1 trip.
  4. Antiquing – Maine is supposed to have some cool antique spots.  Would love to find a few gems while I’m up there.
  5. Ride a bike – The house we’re staying at has 1 bike divided by 12 people.  I’m going to put my name on the wait-list now.
  6. Read a book or 5 – I am bringing 5 books with me.  I’m old school and still love checking books out from the library.
  7. Games – I plan on playing lots of board games with my family.  Let the competition begin!
  8. Dance parties – My 12-month old niece loves to dance while holding my i-phone.  A lot of dance parties are going to happen next week.
  9. Enjoy a sunset over the ocean – no explanation necessary!
  10. And last but certainly not least…. Relax and enjoy time with my family! 🙂
Will be back soon!

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Samoa Rice Krispie Treats

Samoas are those delicious Girl Scout Cookies with caramel, chocolate, and coconut.  They are easily my favorite!  I have no idea why they are called Samoas (I was never a Girlscout; could this be the reason I hate camping?), but I’ve heard them called Caramel Delights as well.  Wherever the name comes from, those G-scouts bake a mean cookie.  I turned these Samoas into Samoa Rice Krispie Treats;  I mixed toasted coconut with the Rice Krispies and then covered the top with chocolate, more toasted coconut, and caramel drizzle.

 

Disclaimer:  These Samoa Rice Krispies are best enjoyed while watching Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelley Long, circa 1989.  A classic, must-see 80’s movie.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 package (10 oz.) marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 5 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Caramel syrup for drizzling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spread shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 5 -10 minutes.  Meanwhile, coat a 13×9″ pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.  Add Rice Krispies and 1/2 cup coconut and stir until well coated.  Using buttered spatula or wax paper to evenly press mixture into pan.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spread melted chocolate over Rice Krispie treats and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup toasted coconut, gently pressing into chocolate.  Drizzle with caramel sauce.  Allow Rice Krispies to harden before cutting into squares.

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Blueberry Baked Donuts

July is National Blueberry month and what better way to celebrate then with these delicious Blueberry Baked Donuts. One of my favorite types of donuts, besides peanut donuts, are blueberry donuts. They are delicious and because these donuts are baked, are healthier too! I must have a thing for bluberries because I also love blueberry bagels. Blueberries are chocked full of healthy antioxidants, so be sure to get your fill with these delicious blueberry treats:

Blueberry & Coconut Smoothie

Blueberry & Lavender Scones

Blueberry & Pineapple Smoothie

Blueberry Cheesecake Squares w/Hazelnuts

Blueberry Glazed Doughnut Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

Oatmeal Blueberry & White Chocolate Cookies

Fillet Mignon w/Blueberry Balsamic Reduction (Fileno al Mirtillo)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 Greek Yogurt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Vanilla Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray donut pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add yogurt, eggs, and butter and beat until combined. Fill each doughnut cup 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan 4-5 minutes before removing from pan.
  4. To make glaze, combine ingredients and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over donuts and allow to dry on a wire rack.

*Makes 12 doughnuts

Adapted from Wilton Baked Cake Donuts

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Sweet Corn Succotash

Sweet corn has been on sale lately.  If you’re like me, you buy 10 ears of corn for $2.00, eat about 4 of them and then have 6 leftover that you need to use before they go bad.  This Sweet Corn Succotash is the perfect solution!  This succotash is simple to make and is the perfect side dish to accompany a vast array of grilled dishes or BBQ.  I served my succotash with grilled chicken – it was the perfect summer dish.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups frozen lima beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup slivered parsley leaves

Ingredients:

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the frozen beans until tender.  Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In a deep skillet, add the onion and cook until just softened.  Add the tomatoes and corn and cook until the tomatoes break down. Add the lima beans with the cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes.  Stir in the butter and parsley and serve.
 *Adapted from Food & Wine

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