Sunday, December 15, 2013

Skinny Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes

My friend Shannon wanted a cheesecake for her birthday, no problem! That's my kind of birthday gift. She was pretty jealous of one a made a while ago on full scale with Reese's PB Cups in it so I decided to go that route but to cut it down a little bit calorie wise. I found this recipe on Pinterest (obviously!) and loved it instantly. It needs to be chilled overnight to get to the right consistency of cheesecake, otherwise it definitely tastes a little like the light cheesecake it is. I made this into 6 mini cheesecakes so it didn't need to cook as long. The mini's are easier to share and to split up - because I obviously wanted one for myself!

Skinny Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes
(Adapted slightly from here)


2/3 cup chocolate chip cookies, crushed
2 cups fat free cottage cheese
1 (8oz) package light cream cheese
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (Or brown sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 bag mini peanut butter cups, chopped (reserve a couple for garnish if desiered)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line a 9 inch baking pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray.(I used my 6 mini cheesecake pan and skipped the foil)

Press the cookie crumbs into the pan, pressing down with a glass to get an even compact crust.

Add cottage cheese and cream cheese to a food processor. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Add brown sugar, sugar, sour cream, flour, vanilla, egg, and egg whites. Pulse until just blended. Fold in 3/4 of chopped peanut butter cups.

Pour over graham cracker crumbs.

Bake for 1 hour or until almost set on top, it took about 45 minutes in the mini pan. Turn off the oven, and let cheesecake set in there for 1 hour with the door closed. Remove from the oven and cool.
Cover and chill overnight, covered in the fridge.

To serve garnish with the remaining peanut butter cups, and chocolate sauce if desired.

My Birthday Tea Party

I really wanted to do "High Tea" for my birthday. I vetoed the Fairmount, solely because for $50 a person we could have a super awesome one at someones house with a lot more champagne! So my "control freakness" took over and I made a little menu. Everyone picked a sandwich (crustless on white of course) and brought a bottle of bubbles. I did all the baking, because its kind of what I do, my friend Alex made mini Quiches that were wonderful. I really didn't think I liked those until recently.

I was really happy with how it all turned out. My mom had a classic tea set for us to use and we even had some real tea between the Champagne. Morgan (our hostess), bought some Birthday Cake tea for use to enjoy - it was so good! And it had sprinkles in it. So here's some recipes for the baking, a copy of my menu and some pictures. I hope it inspires you to dress up and have one of your own. Fascinators optional, but so much fun!

Cream Scones
(Adapted from here)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)


Heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream, beaten egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. 

Sprinkle flour on a mat or clean counter and knead dough gently four or five times, adding a touch more flour if needed. The more you add, the heavier the scones with be though. Pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round. Then, using a 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. I got 12 out of the recipe

Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking.
Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes or until nicely browned. 

These turned out nicely sweet and paired amazingly with Double Devon Cream and Jam. I would make them again for sure. The parchment will help them come out a bit lighter while still being cooked, so if you mind - don't skip that step. 

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Loaves

*Coming Soon

(Fudge courtesy Spruce Meadows Christmas Market)

Citrus Cheesecake in a Chocolate Shell
(Adapted slightly from Here)


2 cans (11 oz) Mandarin oranges, drained
6 oz cream cheese
4 oz heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
Dash of Lemon Juice
6 Chocoate Shells (Such at Choco-Lux)
Chocolate Garnish (optional, Choco-Lux)

Beat whipping cream until firm.

Blend in cream cheese, vanilla, and 1 can of the Mandarin oranges.

Gently spoon mixture into chocolate shells, smoothing the top. 

Decorate the top with remaining fruit and chocolate garnish if desired.

Chill for 4 hours minimum, covered. 

I was really happy with how this turned out, I'm sort of a cheesecake snob and a no bake was pushing it for me but I really liked the chocolate shell idea, so I had to go that way. I thought mandarin was a good flavour to go with for the season since we already had lemon loaves. I added a touch of sugar and used the vanilla paste because I like the little bits of vanilla bean in there. I also upped the cream cheese to help it stand a bit better and saved some whipped cream for the tops to decorate. I would make this again for sure. 

Profiteroles with Chocolate Drizzle

I stuck with the cream puff recipe I made for Thanksgiving except made them a bit smaller. I added a little more egg than last time and was worried they weren't going to turn out, but they actually raised and puffed out way better than the last ones. I waited to fill them until about 30 minutes before the party and let the chocolate set in the fridge for a bit as well. I used St Dalfour Chocolate Raspberry dessert sauce for the drizzle, but any type of melted chocolate or caramel would work. What ever you want! 

And that does it for the tea party. It was so much fun, there was a lot of food. We definitely didn't eat it all but had our fair shares with leftovers for the men that didn't get an invite. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spicy Maple Kettle Corn

One of the many cooking shows that I watch on a fairly regular basis is In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita. I like it because he's always excited to be cooking and he likes butter. Plus its Canadian. So at least everything they're using, I can actually get. Also, he makes a lot of really great snack type food which helps to get Sean to be ok with watching the show once in a while. I made this (A double batch) for our Halloween Party, just over a month ago.

I thought it turned out really great. Some people thought it was a bit too spicy. So make sure you only do the Cayenne to your audience, or no one might eat your awesome snack! Another thing I would recommend is to use a thermometer. I managed to over toast my sugar in the second batch even with the digital one, but its not a candy one that you can leave in the pot. If the sugar gets over cooked it can break the popcorn apart or worse you might need to start over - burnt sugar doesn't make any friends. I left the nuts out, but I might put pecans in it if I made this again. You can pop the popcorn however you usually do, I've found stovetop with peanut oil has been the nest luck for me so far. I would also do unsalted and salt the final product before the oven if desired.

Spicy Maple Kettle Corn
(Adapted from Stefano)

8 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups unsalted nuts (optional)
1 1/2 cup pretzels
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup, white or golden
1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
Cayenne, to taste (I used about a heaping teaspoon)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. I sprayed my roasting pan lightly with pam instead of parchment.

Combine popcorn, nuts and pretzels in large bowl or roasting pan. Set aside.

Over medium heat, bring maple syrup and corn syrup to a boil and cook to soft ball stage (240 degrees F.). Add butter, salt and cayenne pepper.

Carefully pour the maple caramel mixture over popcorn and toss with wooden spoon or tongs to combine. Bake, mixing every 8 to 10 minutes, until caramel hardens on popcorn, about 30 minutes.

Let cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies

As with most of my recipes I found this one online. I follow the Williams Sonoma "Taste Blog", which I would highly recommend if you're ever considering a dinner party, and this was their featured cookie of the day. Sean (and his whole family) love peanut butter. Anything peanut butter. And if you throw chocolate in there you get a gold star. So I knew these would be a great choice for some cookies to have out at one of our many get together's over the next few weeks.

It wasn't as easy as I was hoping for but nothing that ends up that great usually is. The hardest part for me was chocolate spreading - melted chocolate on cooled dough. I didn't get it quite right, which messes with the rolling if you have too much chocolate in there. The rolling up wasn't too bad, but I would suggest using waxed paper instead of parchment. The dough is quite soft and sticky. The only other things I had to change were adding a few more chocolate chips to the melt - about 1/4 cup more and they needed to be baked for about 2 minutes longer I found. But my mom made them in her convection oven and the 10 minutes was perfect. So here's the recipe (and a picture soon!) I hope you give these a try and impress your guests with them!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies
(Adapted slightly from Williams Sonoma)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup good-quality unsweetened creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 (12-oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips, plus some extra if needed

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all but 1 tablespoon of the butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until creamed and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into the bowl, and stir into the peanut butter mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan or double boiler filled with about an inch of water, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter with the chocolate chips over very low heat. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly.

Divide the dough into 2 balls. Place 1 dough ball on a large piece of floured waxed paper. Flour the top of the dough, place another piece of parchment on top, and roll into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Use the waxed paper to help you, and keep peeling it up and sprinkling it with flour if it gets too sticky. If you keep the dough floured, it will roll out more easily. When you spread the chocolate, brush off any excess flour, or the chocolate will be difficult to spread. Spread the rectangle with half of the chocolate mixture, leaving a 1-inch border on the long side closest to you. Starting from the long side farthest from you, and using the waxed paper to help, carefully roll the dough into a log. Place the log seam side down and wrap it in the waxed paper, twisting the ends to hold it tight. Repeat with the remaining dough and chocolate mixture.

Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours or ideally overnight.

Space 2 racks evenly in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the logs, trim the ends of each log, then cut crosswise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Space the cookies evenly on the prepared pans. They don't puff out too much, so you can probably get quite a few on the sheet. Aim for about a fingers worth of space between. You will need to bake in batches, so refrigerate the remaining portion of the logs until you are ready to cut and bake more cookies. Bake until the cookies are puffed and lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

I made about 85 cookies.