Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 91: Chocolate Nests

Today is my oldest son's 14th birthday. We took both boys and some friends to eat pizza for lunch and then to the movies to see The Hunger Games. It was a fun, enjoyable day and the movie was awesome!

It's hard to believe that it is already the last day of March. Easter is next Sunday, so several of my posts this week will be Easter themed. Starting today, I made Chocolate Nests. These use chow mein noodles covered in chocolate chips and peanut butter. I used jelly beans to put on top to look like bird eggs, but you could use Robin Eggs or any egg shaped candy. These were rather tasty. The flavor of the chow mein noodles was still slightly there, but when I took a bite of the whole thing with the jelly beans included, it all worked together well. These were very simple to make and something that you might enjoy making with your kids.

Chocolate Nests

  • 3 cups chow mein noodles
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • Jelly beans or other egg shaped candy

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, place the chow mein noodles.
  2. In a small glass bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and peanut butter until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour over the noodles and stir until evenly coated.
  3. On a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, spoon noodles into a pile the shape of a nest. Set 3 jelly beans on top of each. Refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 90: Popcorn & M&M's

I am so glad for this week to come to an end. I am exhausted, mentally and physically! Besides dealing with the house flood from the hot water heater and the clean up that ensued, I baked and decorated 3 birthday cakes, all the while going about my normal routine activities of work, family and church. Thankfully, the industrial fans and humidifiers were removed from the house today - I'm not sure I could have gone another day with them around me!! That loud humming noise can drive a person insane!

Today is my sweet Nick's 12th birthday. We surprised him this afternoon with a trip to the AT&T store to pick out his first phone! He was so excited! Then we went out for dinner at his favorite restaurant, La Huerta.

We began moving our furniture back to its original spot, at least until we get the floors and carpet replaced. Needless to say, I am tired so tonight was a great night to share a healthy quick snack with you.

I always keep microwave popcorn around the house. I buy Orville Redenbacher's 100% whole grain Natural popcorn - simply salted with 50% less fat. It is not buttered but is still very tasty. It brings out the natural oil flavor without all that butter. When I really want a treat, I add a fun size bag of M&M's - I love the combination of popcorn with the chocolate. Pour it on while the popcorn is hot and they get soft and melty! Tonight I added an extra special treat - Pretzel M&M's. Delicious!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 89: Butter Toffee Popcorn

I spent this afternoon baking and decorating another birthday cake for a sweet girl in my church group who turned 12 today. Happy Birthday, Kirsten. She is having a sleepover tomorrow night so I will post a picture of it after I deliver it tomorrow.

Saturday is my boss's birthday, so I made up a batch of my Butter Toffee Popcorn which he loves! I posted the recipe for this on Day 28. It is so quick and easy to make, but tastes like you slaved all day to make it. The perfect treat to eat while watching a movie.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 88: Birthday cake and cookie!

I enjoyed spending most of the day in the kitchen baking a birthday cake and cookie for my boys to share with their youth groups at church tonight. Nick will turn 12 on Friday and Camdyn will turn 14 on Saturday.

Several months ago, I came across a cake decorated like a chess board. Nick loves chess, so I showed him the picture and he was sold on the idea. It was fun to make, but a lot of work. I bought a mold to make the chess pieces out of chocolate. The top is fondant squares Everything you see in the picture is edible. It was a huge hit!

Camdyn prefers cookie to cake so his was much easier to make and didn't take as much time.

I tasted both the cake and the cookie, as well as a homemade peanut butter cup made by my friend Pat Puckett (thanks Pat - it was delicious). She said my blog posts inspired her to make them last night so she shared one with me. Needless to say, I've got a little sugar rush going on!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 87: Oreo Balls

My life, as I know it, is in utter chaos and disorder! I am lacking the words to describe what has transpired within the last 18 hours. It all started this morning at 3:45 when Thomas and I woke to find most of our house sitting in about 1/2 an inch of water! The hot water heater was running and leaking water out of the top and the cats were completely freaked out! My first emotion was utter shock as I grieved over my newly installed wood floors. Just as quickly, we moved into overdrive to clean up the mess, sucking up the water with the shop vac. We got it cleaned up as best we could, in time to get ready for the day, take the kids to school and go to work.

My few moments of spare time during the day were spent calling the insurance company and scheduling the clean up and estimating of the mess, while Thomas worked it out to get a new hot water heater and get it installed, thanks to the help of his dad and mom. The clean up crew from ServPro and the insurance adjuster both arrived at 5:30 to inspect and went to work immediately. I was very impressed by their timeliness and thoroughness Taking pictures and poking the floor with some high tech equipment, they were able to easily assess and diagnose the situation. Almost immediately, there were fans and dehumidifiers all over. They found damage in areas that we didn't even think of! So, right now, my house is noisy with all this equipment running (which has to run for 3 days), and in utter chaos and disorder. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't deal with either of those well. But I am taking it in stride, especially since I have 3 birthday cakes and a birthday cookie to get out between tomorrow and Friday!

Despite all the activities surrounding my day, this evening I managed to make some Oreo Balls. Tomorrow is Thomas' last day of work at his current job so I am sending them to work with him as a final sweet treat to his peeps! They love the Oreo Balls!

If you've never made them, take a bag of Oreos and process in a food processor or blender until small crumbs. Stir in 1 block of softened cream cheese. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and refrigerate for a few minutes. Dip into melted white or milk chocolate and let harden. The ones dipped in white chocolate are my favorite!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 86: National Nougat Day

Imagine your favorite store bought food, whether sweet or savory. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to try one fresh, "hot off the press", right after they come down the factory line? I enjoy watching t.v. shows that take you inside the food factories to see how many different brands and types of foods are made, and I am always jealous of the host guy standing there that gets to try a fresh one. It just makes my mouth water! If something is so good after being on the shelf for a few weeks or months, imagine what it would taste like fresh!!

Well, today I feel like I sort of experienced that.  It was all on accident of course. When I was searching for a recipe for today for National Nougat Day, I came across a recipe for Malted Milk Chocolate Nougat. It jumped out at me and I knew I wanted to try it. I was really not sure how it would turn out at all - I have never made nougat before. It was relatively simple to make with few ingredients; however, it was very messy!

After the nougat had set for a couple of hours, I was ready to sample it. It was very sticky to handle and I had to run my knife under hot water after each cut. I took my first bite and it just melted in my mouth! I believe this was the freshest nougat I had ever tasted. Immediately, I knew if I dipped the nougat squares in chocolate, that it would taste just like a 3 Musketeers bar that was "hot off the press". Besides, the nougat was too sticky to handle on its own and the chocolate would give it that protective coating. So, tonight in the Ashcraft home, homemade 3 Musketeers copycat bars were created!! I don't think I will ever look at a store bought 3 Musketeers the same!!

Malted Milk Chocolate Nougat
Yield: 8" x 8" pan

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites, room temp.
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup malted milk powder (chocolate or original flavor)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  1. Prepare an 8" x 8" pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, then insert a candy thermometer. Cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 260 degrees. While you wait, proceed to prepare the rest of the recipe.
  3. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Stir until completely smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the syrup reaches 250 degrees, begin to beat the egg whites on medium speed.
  5. Once the sugar syrup reaches 260 degrees, remove the pan from the heat. I recommend that you pour the hot syrup into a large measuring cup with a spout or small pitcher to make pouring it easier.
  6. Turn the mixer to high speed and slowly stream the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Continue beating on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the egg whites are shiny, white and stiff. Turn the mixer down and add the melted chocolate, salt and malted milk powder. Mix until well combined and smooth. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl very well.
  7. Spoon the nougat into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Allow to cool at room temperature until completely set, then cut into small squares to serve. Nougat may be dipped in melted chocolate, if desired. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 85: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

My most favorite cookie ever created on the face of the earth is the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie! I love the chewiness of the cookie with the sweet, soft white chocolate chips/chunks and then the salty crunch of the macadamia nut. What's not to like?! 

When it comes to these cookies, I am pretty picky about them. Otis Spunkmeyer makes a delicious one as well as Subway. When it comes to making them at home, I tried several recipes and variations before finding this one in my Betty Crocker Cookbook. I don't know that I would say this recipe is the best ever, but it is pretty close. If any of you have a recipe that you think is "The Bomb", send it to me - I would love to try it. Until then, I will stick with this one.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie
From: Betty Crocker Cookbook
Yields: 3 1/2 dozen cookies (125 calories each)

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortnening
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 package (6 oz) white chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 package (2.25 oz) macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  1. Pre heat oven to 350 deg.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, shortening, vanilla, and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in chips and nuts.
  3. On ungreased cookie sheet, use cookie scoop and drop dough about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to cool.
Sharla's Notes:
  • Be sure not to over-bake these cookies. In fact, I prefer them a little under baked. 
  • In my opinion, these tastes best the day they are baked. If I am running low on time, I will make the dough ahead of time, scoop the dough and refrigerate or freeze until I need them. Then pull them out, thaw and bake when you need them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 84: National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

As I was browsing through my blog list last night, a recipe caught my eye from Cookies on Friday. Nicole had posted a recipe for Favorite Oatmeal Cookies. What was different about these was that she had used Raisinets in the oatmeal cookies. What a coincidence! Today just happens to be Chocolate Covered Raisin Day, so I knew that I wanted to try them. I am not really a fan of raisins but anything dipped in chocolate tastes better, right?!!
These cookies turned out really flat, and when that happens, I usually try to figure out what I did wrong and fix it next time. I am just not a fan of flat cookies! But I think it actually works for these. You definitely want to under cook these a tad so they stay moist and chewy. The combination of chocolate and raisin with the oatmeal was yummy. I have already eaten 4 of these, and I must quit. Although, they come in at only 102 calories each, so not too much to complain about. The recipe yields 3-1/2 dozen cookies. Check out the recipe for Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies at Cookies on Friday

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 83: Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffle

When we were in Eureka Springs this week, we bought some chocolate at one of the local fudgeries. It had chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and pretzels. It was so delicious that I knew I would need to recreate them when I got back home.
We also visited a kitchen store while we were there and I bought these mini silicone cups in the shape of flowers. All I could think about today was how I could incorporate these silicone cups with the chocolate candies that I wanted to make. So when I got home, the Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffle came to life!! I know it is a really long name, but there is not any one ingredient that is more important than the other. They all combine to make this delicious, creamy, chocolaty goodness with a little salty crunch!

Start with a layer of chocolate on the bottom. I used the chocolate wafers that you can purchase at Hobby Lobby. All you do is melt them in the microwave, stirring frequently. Refrigerate this until firm, about 10 minutes. On top of the chocolate goes the layer of peanut butter. I microwaved the peanut butter just slightly so it would be softer and easier to spread. Place a pretzel on top of the the peanut butter.
How it looked after topping with the pretzel.
Next, melt Kraft caramels in the microwave with just a tad bit of milk until melted and smooth. Spoon the caramel over the pretzel. Finally, top it all off with some more melted chocolate to cover completely. That's all there is to it. 

If you don't have any of these little silicone cups, you can still make these. The Chocolate shop had done them just like chocolate bark. Just spread all the ingredients in the same order on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Then cut in squares to serve. It will taste just as good.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 82: Apple Crisp Pie

Apple Crisp Pie - sounds so yummy yet so time consuming. Far from it! This dessert only took me about 20 minutes to make, including 10 minutes to chill the pudding layer. Sandra Lee definitely has a knack for semi-homemade desserts. Delicious treats without sweating it out in the kitchen for hours.

It starts out with a store bought graham cracker crust (I used the Keebler reduced fat version). The first layer is vanilla pudding with a little cinnamon kick, followed by a layer of canned apple pie filling, topped off with crushed Nature Valley granola bars. Slicing and serving it seemed a little more difficult because it turned out to be more on the cobbler side than an actual pie slice, but it all tastes the same, right!!

I loved the cinnamon-y apple taste with the creamy pudding. The only thing I have to critique is that I prefer apple pie served warm, but this pie has to be served cool because of the pudding. The flavors worked well together though, so it was worth it.  

Apple Crisp Pie
Serves: 8 (308 calories per slice)
From: Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Desserts

  • 1-1/2 cups cold whole milk
  • 1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 (6 oz) pre-made graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
  • 2 (1.5 oz) Nature Valley granola bars
  1. Combine milk, pudding mix and 1 tsp of cinnamon in large bowl. Beat for 2 minutes or until well blended and beginning to thicken. Pour into graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir apple pie filling with remaining 1/2 tsp of cinnamon in medium bowl to blend; spread over pudding. Cover pie; refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Place granola bars in resealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush bars into coarse crumbs. Sprinkle pie with granola crumbs and serve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 81: 3, 2, 1 cake

Headed back to work today after a 4 day weekend. As much as I enjoy my time off, I really enjoy being in my regular schedule also! After work, I headed to the gym for a much needed run. Having not run or worked out since last Thursday, it went really well and felt great. Looking forward to going to weight training tomorrow night to get back in the groove.

Today, I was looking for something simple and relatively healthy to try. Several weeks ago, an elderly lady from church e-mailed me a recipe for 3,2,1 cake. She knows that I like to bake and thought I might want to give it a try. This recipe is called 3, 2, 1 Cake because all you need to remember is "3 tablespoons mix, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 minute in the microwave!" It is basically a cake in a mug that you heat in the microwave. That seemed like the perfect dessert for Thomas and I to enjoy tonight, since it is just the two of us at home.

The recipe calls for 1 box of angel food cake mix, 1 box of any other flavor cake mix, and water. I chose to use Red Velvet cake mix. It turned out surprisingly well. I topped it with a dollop of whipped cream and it was the perfect little snack weighing in at only 150 calories. Perfect for the sweet tooth when you don't want to bake a big cake. The red velvet is a more mild flavored cake, so it needed the whipped cream on top, but using a chocolate fudge cake would be even more tasty in my opinion.
3,2,1 Cake
Makes 1 serving

  • 1 box Angel Food Cake Mix
  • 1 box Cake Mix - Any Flavor
  • 2 Tbsp Water

  1. In a ziploc bag, combine the two cake mixes together and mix well.
  2. For each individual cake serving, take out 3 Tablespoons of the cake mix combination and mix it with 2 Tablespoons of water in a small microwave-safe mug or container. 
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute, and you have your own instant individual little cake!
  4. KEEP remaining cake mixture stored in the ziploc bag and use whenever you feel like a treat! You can top each cake with a dollop of fat free whipped topping and/or some fresh fruit.
Helpful Tips:
  • TRY various flavors of cake mix like carrot, red velvet, pineapple, lemon, orange, chocolate, strawberry, etc. The flavor possibilities are endless.
  • The best thing is, you open both cake mixes into a gallon storage bag, one that 'zip locks' or 'self-seals', or a container that seals tightly, shake the two cake mixes to blend and then make the recipe. Storage of mix is simple, put it on a shelf. No need to refrigerate, since the mix is dry.
  • Always remember, that one of the cake mixes MUST be Angel Food. The other can be any flavor. The Angel Food is the cake mix that has the eggs whites in it. So, if, anyone is allergic to egg whites, do NOT serve this recipe.
Sharla's variation:
Instead of mixing the 2 cake mixes together, I scooped 1-1/2 tbsp of angel food cake mix and 1-1/2 tbsp of the other cake mix, combined with the water and then heated in the microwave. I have used those mixes that you combine and keep in the counter, and found that they don't always turn out. You may get more of one mix than the other at different times that you make it, so this way guarantees that I am getting the same amount of each mix in the cake. Then just seal up the remaining cake mixes for use next time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 80: Moon Pie Sundae

The past couple of days have been full of rest, relaxation, fun and lots of food. My fitness schedule has been lacking due to being sick and being out of town. So, tomorrow I will be re-syncing my diet and exercise back to normal.

In the meantime, I have a sweet to sample for today. I wanted something quick and easy since we just got back in town today. My dad bought a big box of double decker moon pies at Sam's and when we dropped the boys off at their house on Sunday, he sent us with 2 of them for the road.

Thomas' favorite way to eat a moon pie is to heat it in the microwave and top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel syrup. So, guess what we did? You guessed it! Moon Pie Sundaes! Puffed up gooey marshmallow with graham and chocolate wafers and cold ice cream! YUM! Way too many calories but it tasted good.

The double decker moon pies have 300 calories. A mini moon pie is also made that is only 100 calories, so that is the better option to satisfy your moon pie obsession!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 79: Chocolate, Chocolate, and more Chocolate

Thomas and I spent today browsing through all the shops in downtown Eureka Springs. We had a blast especially in the chocolate shops! Maybe a little too much fun! The picture shows all of our chocolatey goodness loot that we are devouring as I type this. Chocolate peanut butter fudge, Rocky Road fudge, chocolate caramels, a pecan big bear, chocolate caramel pretzel, and salt water taffy! We will be in a sugar coma before we get done, but we are enjoying it none the less. That's what vacation is for right?!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 78: Anniversary Trip

Today marks 17 years of love and marriage to my high school sweetheart. We have been through joys and triumphs, tears and trials, and even a few fights and fallouts along the journey. But I wouldn't have wanted to experience it with anyone else. Thomas, you are the joy in my smile, my strength when I am weak, my encourager when I fail, and the love of my life!

Since the kids are on Spring Break this week, they have gone on a road trip to Texas with my parents. We dropped them off in Russellville this afternoon, and then headed off to Eureka Springs for a couple of days of alone time for our anniversary. So my next few posts will be desserts that we find along our journey. I can't wait to visit the chocolate shops tomorrow to see what treasures I can find.

This evening, we ate on a restaurant balcony overlooking downtown. It was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed the quiet, peaceful atmosphere I ordered a Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. It was described as Angel Food Cake, but it was more like a very dense pound cake. By far, it was not the best I've ever eaten, but the strawberries and whipped cream were tasty.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 77: Jello Pinwheels

Today I want to share a quick and easy recipe for Jell-O Pinwheels. I came across these several weeks ago on a blog called Joy of Jello. They looked so yummy and fun that I knew I had to try them. Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to make them with green Jello, but I didn't have any and I wasn't in the mood for a trip to the store. So, I used what I had - cherry.

Jello Pinwheels
Yield: 8 slices (68 calories each)

  • 1 (3 oz) pkg. Jello (any flavor you want)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  1. Lightly spray an 8-inch square pan with non stick cooking spray.
  2. Heat water in the microwave for 1 minute. Add Jello and stir well. Return to the microwave for 1 minute, then stir well.
  3. Add marshmallows and return to microwave for 30 seconds; whisk until marshmallows are completely dissolved.
  4. Pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until well set. It should be firm and easy to handle. The marshmallow layer will have floated to the top.
  5. Loosen the edges with a knife. Starting at one end, roll up tightly. With seam side down, cut in 8 1-inch slices. I used a piece of dental floss to cut quickly and evenly.
If you have kids, you have to try these! Or they are even fun for adults - it was fun to unroll these and eat with my hands. You could even use sugar free Jello if you want. What a great snack!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 76: Happy Friday!

Happy Friday before Spring Break day! I have been dealing with sinus and congestion issues all week and today it has finally hit me like a brick! I came home from work today and hit the bed. Got up and around enough to go eat dinner with the family then back home for a bath and off to bed.

Needless to say, I haven't really thought much about my sweet for the day. This is one of those days when it is great to have homemade cookie dough and leftover ice cream in the freezer. So, I baked a White Chip Chocolate cookie and scooped a small bowl of ice cream and called it a day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 75: National Peanut Lover's Day

Today is a celebration of anything that you love that consists of peanuts. For me, that would be the obvious - peanut butter. I love peanut butter, but I use it sparingly because of the high fat and calorie content. It really is good for you in moderation, though.

I thought about trying peanut butter ice cream, so I could use my ice cream maker again, but maybe it needs a break!! Instead, I chose Sandra Lee's Rice Crispy Peanut Butter Treats. These only have 4 ingredients and require no baking - you just need a spoon and a big bowl. How easy is that!
I had 2 of these with a little tablespoonful of Nutella on the side to dip them in.  It was delicious! I think I may use this as the inside filling of my Peanut Butter Balls that I make around Christmas time. Roll them about half the size and dip in melted chocolate - YUMMY!

P.S. Notice my new cupcake Scentsy warmer in the photo. I got that just for my kitchen - couldn't resist! 

Rice Crispy Peanut Butter Treats
From: Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade Desserts
Yield: 23 treats (142 calories each)

  • 3 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy Jif)
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
  1. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Using 2 wooden spoons, toss cereal, peanut butter and chips in a large bowl to coat. Add marshmallow creme and toss until well combined.
  2. Using a 1 ounce cookie scoop, form mixture into 1-1/2 inch balls. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 74: Viennese Ice Cream Cake

So, you know how obsessed I've been with my new ice cream maker? Well, the ice cream is beginning to pile up in my freezer, so luckily, I have a recipe to use up some of that before it piles up on my waistline!! 

This Viennese Ice Cream Cake from Sandra Lee is so quick and easy! Ice cream cakes can become whatever you want it to be - just get creative.  Use your favorite flavors between layers of candy, fruit, chocolate or sprinkles and you have something unique and delicious. It is better to make this the day before you need it, so it has time to freeze solid.

Viennese Ice Cream Cake
From: Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Desserts
Yield: 8-10 servings

  • 2 packages (5.5 oz each, 20 sticks total) of Twix bars
  • 1 qt coffee ice cream, softened
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch caramel topping
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 qt vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 container (8 oz) Cool Whip
  • 1 (1.55 oz) milk chocolate bar, shaved
  1. Line 9 1/4 x 5 x 2 3/4-inch loaf pan with 2 layers of plastic wrap, allowing 3 inches to hang over pan sides. Stand Twix along sides of pan, spacing evenly. Using rubber spatula, press 1/4 of coffee ice cream into pan. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of pecans over caramel. Spread 1/4 of vanilla ice cream over nuts. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of caramel topping over ice cream; sprinkle about 1 tbsp of pecans over caramel.
  2. Freeze 20 minutes or until firm. Repeat the layering from step 1, freezing for 20 minutes between each layering.  Fold plastic overhang on top of  cake to cover.  Freeze for 4 hours or until frozen solid.
  3. To unmold, wrap hot damp towels around pan to loosen ice cream cake from pan. Fold back plastic from top of ice cream cake. Invert cake onto serving platter; peel off plastic wrap. Spoon whipped topping into pastry bag fitted with star tip and pipe onto cake, or spread with a spoon or spatula.
  4. Freeze for 1 hour or until whipped topping is frozen solid. Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chocolate shavings over cake. Cut cake crosswise into slices. 
  • This is Sandra Lee's exact recipe. I chose to use my own homemade ice cream that I already had on hand.  You can use any flavor of ice cream that you desire. 
  • I layered one flavor of ice cream, drizzled caramel sauce over that, and then layered the second flavor of ice cream, instead of doing the individual layers 4 times. 
  • I left off the pecans, because my husband and kids don't like them. Use could replace with chocolate chips or just omit them all together.
  • I sprinkled Reeses Pieces on top instead of shaved chocolate bar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 73: National Coconut Torte Day or Homemade Milky Way Ice Cream (you pick!)

Today is officially National Coconut Torte Day. So if you like coconut and cake, then today is your day! Since I greatly dislike coconut and this is my blog, then I reserve the right to change the rules and skip this national day for something even better - like HOMEMADE MILKY WAY ICE CREAM! Seriously, since I got my new ice cream maker, all I can think about is what kind of ice cream to make next. It really isn't even about eating it, but just trying new kinds and recipes to see how they turn out. Any of you that would like to help eat this ice cream, let me know. I would be glad to share my samples.

My original dessert menu for March consisted mostly of recipes from Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade Desserts cookbook, but I have chosen to skip several of those in my spastic obsessed state of ice cream mania!! Tomorrow I promise I will share one of her recipes with you, but luckily it contains ice cream, so I can continue my obsession and stay on track following her cookbook!

The recipe I used today is not a new one. I have used this one in my old style ice cream maker that uses ice and rock salt, but I had to half it because of the smaller size of my Cuisinart. Actually, I made the whole recipe but churned it in 2 batches. Part of it I will use in my dessert tomorrow - stay tuned!  It turned out just as fantastic as I remember. You must try this today!!

Milky Way Ice Cream
Yield: 4 qts
1 cup serving (6.8 oz) = 275 calories

  • 6 regular size Milky Way bars (or 18 fun size)
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 cups low fat milk
  1. Melt candy bars and 1 tsp milk in microwave until melted.  Cool slightly.
  2. Stir in sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Whisk in eggs, vanilla and sugar.  Pour into ice cream maker and add milk to fill line.  Stir.
  4. Churn in ice cream freezer until done.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 72: Homemade Ice Cream (Attempt #2)

Ok, so after my disastrous attempt at homemade frozen yogurt yesterday, I was anxious to try again. I spent some time today googling and reading reviews of several recipes online and came up with what I thought would be a keeper.

Before I share my results with you, let me take a moment to explain my ice cream preferences so you understand where I am coming from. There are two different types of homemade ice cream. The first kind is a creamy custard that is made from mixing eggs, sugar, and cream together and heating the mixture until cooked, then cooling and freezing in an ice cream maker. The second kind is called Philadelphia, and is a quick recipe without using eggs so it doesn't have to be heated. Just combine the half & half, cream and sugar, pour into ice cream maker and churn and freeze. Honestly, I don't have the patience or desire to wait any longer for ice cream than the time it takes to churn it in the ice cream maker, so I go for the second option. Also, I like the texture and flavor of the quick recipe. It is more like an ice milk ice cream. I can get the creamy, custard type ice cream in the freezer section of any grocery store.
Anyway, I tried out the new Vanilla Ice Cream recipe and it was delicious! The reviews on it were mostly positive. The negative ones were because those commenters preferred a more creamy texture than this one provides. So, here is the basic vanilla recipe that can be adapted with different flavorings, fruits or candies to make numerous varieties.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Yield: 2 qts.
         14 one-half cup servings (156 calories each)

  • 2 cups half & half (can use regular or fat free)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk (whole, 2% or 1%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Warm 1 cup of half & half in microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and whisk until dissolved.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to maker directions.
  • Using whole milk and regular half & half will result in a creamier ice cream.
  • I used regular half & half with the heavy cream, but used 1% milk to save a little in the calorie area. It turned out great.
  • Stay tuned when I share my Milky Way Ice Cream recipe later on. It is a favorite among my family. This Cuisinart Ice Cream maker might just make a monster out of me. I love it - it is so easy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 71: Homemade Frozen Yogurt

The one thing I requested for my birthday last week was a Cuisinart ice cream maker. One of the things my husband is good at is taking hints. So, guess what I got for my birthday? A Cuisinart Ice Cream maker!!! And today was my first day to try it out!

When I buy ice cream at the store, I get the frozen yogurt - it has less fat and calories. So, when I scanned through the recipes in the instruction booklet that came with the ice cream maker, that was the recipe that stood out to me to try first. I like frozen yogurt that tastes like ice cream, not frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt! Yogurt is nasty! So I was anticipating this would be similar to the store bought frozen yogurt that I buy. Oh no! This was the perfect combination of frozen yogurt that tastes like yogurt! I kept tasting it hoping the aftertaste would change a little over time, but it just tasted worse!

So, I guess my next trial run will be trying to lighten the regular ice cream recipe so it has less calories. Either that or make the full fat version and just eat less or run a few extra miles!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 70: National Blueberry Muffin Day

I was so glad that National Blueberry Muffin Day happened to occur on a Saturday! During the week, I don't wake up early enough to bake breakfast. But this morning, I was able to sleep in, and then get up and make muffins for breakfast.  On Saturdays, I am usually up before the rest of my family. This gives me time to enjoy the peace and quiet before my rowdy boys get up and going! I really enjoyed being in the kitchen first thing this morning, just me and the muffins, until Camdyn decided he smelled something good and showed up in the kitchen to see what it was. 

The muffin recipe makes 1 dozen, so I made half of them blueberry for me and Thomas and the other half chocolate chip for the boys. I used a recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I have mentioned before.  It is a moist muffin with the right mixture of fluffy yet dense texture.

I definitely like muffins, yet I just don't eat them often because they don't keep me feeling full and they are usually high in calories. The good thing about having them for breakfast on Saturday is that I don't eat breakfast until 9:00 or 9:30, so lunchtime isn't too far away. This morning, I had a blueberry muffin with a bowl of sliced strawberries and a mug of hot cocoa - a 270 calorie breakfast.
Blueberry Muffins
From: Betty Crocker
Yield: 1 dozen muffins / 163 calories each

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat milk, oil and egg with wire whisk until well mixed.  Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  3. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes then remove from pan to wire rack to cool, or serve warm if desired.
Additional info:
  • Never over mix batter for muffins. Over mixing causes muffins to be dry. Muffins that were over mixed will have peaked tops.
  • The perfect muffin has a slightly rounded top.
  • I used frozen blueberries and cut them in half and some in fourths.  I don't like huge chunks of blueberries, so these were the perfect size.
  • You can replace the 1 cup of blueberries for chocolate chips.  I used Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips. These are the only kind I buy - they are fabulous! They are bigger than the average chocolate chip and were excellent in these muffins!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 69: Rolo Pretzel Bites

Rolo Pretzel Bites are the perfect combination of salty and sweet. It is one of those snacks that you should always keep the 3 ingredients on hand because they can be made in a snap. And you can make exactly the amount you want to feed only yourself or the whole family, so you aren't left with leftovers sitting around to tempt you.

This is a slight variation from the original version. The 3 ingredients are pretzel twists, rolos and pretzel M&M's. The original version uses a pecan half in place of the pretzel M&M, giving it more of a turtle taste. I had a bag of Pretzel M&M's in my baking cabinet so I decided to use them instead. Also, I like to use a waffle shaped pretzel instead of the traditional twist.

Preheat oven to 300 deg.  Place a sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Set desired number of pretzels on the foil then top the pretzel with a Rolo. Place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes or until Rolo is soft. Remove from the oven and push a pretzel M&M onto the Rolo. Place in the fridge for about 15 minutes or until set.

The perfect little snack when you don't know whether you want salty or sweet and only 43 calories per bite!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 68: National Peanut Cluster Day

When I think of peanut clusters, I think of peanuts and chocolate. Today, I decided to think outside of the box and try a new take on peanut clusters: Sandra Lee's Nutty Brittle.
This recipe only contains 2 ingredients: caramel squares and toffee peanuts. I had a hard time finding the peanuts and finally found Butter Crunch Peanuts made by Archer Farms at Target. With only 2 ingredients, there's no way you can mess this up.

Nutty Brittle
Recipe from: Sandra Lee's Semi-homemade Desserts
Yield: Approximately 9 oz of candy (140 calories per oz)

  • 24 soft caramel candies (I used Kraft)
  • 3/4 cup toffee peanuts (I used Archer Farms Butter Crunch Peanuts from Target)

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil; spray with cooking spray and place in preheated oven.
  2. Spray a heavy small saucepan with cooking spray. Add caramels and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in the peanuts and continue stirring for 5 minutes. Remove prepared pan from oven and quickly spread caramel-peanut mixture onto pan. Cool completely.
  3. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Break into bite-size pieces. Store in refrigerator.

This brittle was very tasty - crunchy like traditional peanut brittle yet with a burnt caramel flavor.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 67: Happy Birthday to me Cake

Today is my birthday - Happy Birthday to me!! And it happened to fall on my day off - even better!! It also happened on a day that was not a national dessert holiday, so I could bake whatever I wanted to! Usually, my husband gets me a TCBY yogurt cake for my birthday, because I like those. But this year, I was looking forward to trying out a new technique and decorating my own cake. 
Start with your favorite white cake recipe or box mix, whichever you prefer. Divide into 2 bowls, halving the batter equally (I use my kitchen scale to measure the weight). Color each batter a different color, preferably contrasting colors so it will show up better. Using a 1/4 or 1/3 measuring cup, pour batter into center of 9" round cake pan. Using the same size measuring cup, pour the second colored batter on top of previous batter in the center of the pan. Continue, alternating colors until all the batter is used up. This is what the batter should look like when you finish.
My favorite colors are purple and lime green, so that was what I chose. Bake cakes according to your recipe's directions. This technique leaves a zebra stripe design in the cake. Using white cake and chocolate cake leaves a very noticeable zebra stripe. The picture below is a picture with a slice of cake cut out, as well as a picture of my cake fully decorated.

Make a cake using this technique for your next family gathering or friendly get together and you will surely impress!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day 66: National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

Today is National White Chocolate Cheesecake day.  It's also the 100th birthday of Oreo cookies.  Now, wouldn't that make a wonderful combination! I actually didn't know about the Oreo cookie's birthday until this morning, so what a coincidence that I used it in my dessert for today that I made last night.
I searched the web for a recipe for today and I came across these White Chocolate Cheesecake Cups. Of course, I am a sucker for mini desserts, so I knew right away that this was the right way to go.  It also helped that there are only 6 ingredients and very easy to make.
These tasted absolutely amazing! They were just the right mixture of firmness, yet soft and creamy at the same time. If it is one thing I can't stand, it's lumpy cheesecake. The Oreo cookie on the bottom was just the right chocolate flavor to match the white chocolate in the cheesecake. These would also taste great with a little raspberry or strawberry drizzled on top, or even some caramel syrup. These are a must try for all you bakers out there. Here is my version of the recipe.

White Chocolate Cheesecake Cups
Yield: 14 cheesecakes / 175 calories each

  • 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp. (I used 1 light & 1 reg.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbps vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate (chopped or chips)
  • 7 Oreo cookies (halved with filling scraped off)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 deg. Fill muffin tins with liners.
  2. Blend the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla together until smooth. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted (about 1 minute). Let cool slightly and then add to the cream cheese mixture, mixing well.
  3. Place one Oreo half in each liner.  Fill each liner 3/4 full with cheesecake mixture. Bake in the oven for 16 minutes or until the center is just slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool completely. Then refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 65: Phyllo Pie Bites

Well, I am glad this Monday is finally coming to an end! It has been a good day, just very busy. Business is picking up at work, so I feel a little frazzled when it is time to leave to pick up the boys from school.  On Mondays, Nick has chess club after school, so Camdyn and I have to hang out until time to pick him up at 4:00. When we finally got home about 4:15, I immediately went into "get it done" mode. The bathrooms needed cleaning, laundry was piling up, and dishes to be put away.  I wanted to get it done before I headed out the door for my 4 mile run at 5:30. Today was great weather for an outside run.  A little windy, and I ran into the wind for the last 2 miles, but the temperature was perfect. Got home and immediately started dinner, ate, then washed dishes. Next came the haircut for Thomas that I had been putting off several nights in a row.  It needed to be done. Finally shower time for me, then back to the kitchen for my sweet baking. Baked, cleaned up the kitchen, and now I am finally sitting down for the first time since getting home so I can write this blog! That was my day in a nutshell!
Tonight, I made Phyllo Pie Bites. Little pastries filled with raspberry preserves and chocolate chips. I don't know if you have ever worked with Phyllo dough before, but it is rather difficult and very delicate.  I forgot to thaw mine, so when I started unrolling it, it was breaking so I couldn't get full sheets.  I made it work, but it was a little frustrating. That is probably one very good reason why I have never made baklava!
They were tasty and light, but didn't turn out just real pretty. Probably because I was just ready to be done so I could sit down!  Here's the recipe if you want to try them.

Phyllo Pie Bites
From:  Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Desserts
Yield: 12

  • 8 plain phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
  • non stick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup cherry preserves (I used raspberry because that's what I already had)
  • 2 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 deg.  Line cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Place 1 phyllo sheet on counter.  Spray with cooking spray. Top with second sheet and spray with cooking spray. Repeat, layering with 2 more phyllo sheets and spraying each, for a total stack of 4 phyllo sheets.
  3. Cut stacked phyllo sheets into 6 even squares. Spoon 1 scant tbsp of preserves into center of each square. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of chocolate chips over preserves. Enclose filling by gathering phyllo and pinching tops slightly to form purses.
  4. Transfer phyllo purses to prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining 4 phyllo sheets, cooking spray, preserves and chocolate chips.  Bake for 20 minutes or until phyllo is crisp and golden. Cool pastries on cookie sheet.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 64: National Pound Cake Day

For National Pound Cake Day, I chose to bake a Triple Lemon Pound Cake. I am not a huge fan of lemon flavored food, but it was the only pound cake recipe in Sandra Lee's book that I am using for this month, so I thought I would give it a try.  

It was very tasty for a lemon cake. Throughout the center of the cake is lemon curd that gave it some extra lemon flavor as well as a lemon glaze over the top. Not too sweet and not too tart.

Triple Lemon Pound Cake
Recipe from: Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Desserts
Yield: 16 slices (255 calories each)

  • 1 lemon supreme cake mix (Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe)
  • 1 box (3.9 oz) lemon instant pudding mix (sugar free)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp lemon curd
  • 3 tbsp lemon curd
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Butter and flour 12 cup Bundt pan or 13x9 inch metal baking pan.
  2. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, water, eggs, oil and lemon zest in large bowl.  Beat for 2 minutes or until well blended.  Transfer batter to prepared pan.  Drizzle lemon curd on top of batter, keeping curd away from sides of pan.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center of cake comes out clean.  Cool cake on cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto cooling rack.  Place cooling rack on a cookie sheet.  Cool completely.
  4. Beat lemon curd, water, and lemon juice in medium bowl until smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until mixture is smooth.  Drizzle over cake.  Transfer cake to serving platter.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 63: Mint Wafers

Today has been a very productive Saturday.  Headed out to run 6-1/2 miles this morning in this beautiful weather we are having.  It was a little windy and I am still getting my lungs accustomed to running outside after running inside over the winter, but it felt great when I finished in an 8:36 per mile pace! Can't complain about that! Then, I worked in my flower bed, getting everything trimmed and raked so I will be ready to plant in a few weeks when I am sure the cold weather is gone. Then, the family raked and raked and raked the back yard where we let the leaves pile up over the winter.  Love having a privacy fence so the neighbors can't see the piles. We ran out of yard bags, so we will have to finish up in a day or two, but it looks fantastic.  So ready to get started planting some vegetables in my raised bed garden!
This afternoon, I whipped up a batch of Mint Wafers.  I chose this recipe because I already have the vanilla wafers from the banana pudding bites I made yesterday, and because they are easy and quick to make.  My honey and I are headed out on a date tonight, so I didn't have much time to spend in the kitchen. I had never tried these before, but they were ok.  Probably won't make them again.

Mint Wafers
Recipe from: Sandra Lee

  • 1 bag (10 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 30 vanilla wafers
  1. Place chocolate chips and butter in a small bowl.  In two to three 30 second intervals, microwave, stirring after each interval.  After completely melted and combined, stir in peppermint extract.
  2. Place vanilla wafers on a wire cooling rack over a sheet of aluminum foil.  Pour melted chocolate over each wafer, covering tops completely.  Let cookies sit for 10 minutes or until chocolate is set.
Changes & observations:
  • I used dark chocolate chips in place of the semi sweet.
  • My melted chocolate was kind of thick so I wasn't able to pour it over the wafer.  I took a spoon and spread it on top of the cookie, covering the entire top of cookie.  It worked pretty well - a little messy but cute.
  • The chocolate never set up, it stayed soft.  Doesn't change the taste any, though.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 62: Banana Cream Pie Day

Welcome to the month of March - spring seems to be just around the corner. Since this winter was on the mild side, it seems as if we just finished fall!  March is a very busy month in the Ashcraft household. We celebrate mine and my 2 boys birthdays as well as our wedding anniversary and several other family members birthdays. Then, spring break marks the turning point in the school year that signifies the end of school is in sight.
For the whole month of March, I have selected a recipe book from Sandra Lee from the Food Network to choose my desserts from: Sandra Lee Semi_Homemade Desserts. Her theory is to use 70% ready-made convenience products, add it to 30% fresh ingredients and give it your own creative personal style. So don't freak out when you see me posting about using a cake mix or store bought cookie dough.  This will allow me to use my creative baking skills but still have time to sleep at night.
Since today is National Banana Cream Pie day, I chose a similar dessert to make: Banana Pudding Bites. I am all about mini, individual desserts. They are just cute and petite and they control portion sizes which help prevent over indulging. So these Banana Pudding Bites were just the right dessert!
Banana Pudding Bites
Recipe from: Sandra Lee
Serving: 3 per serving / 8 servings per recipe / 185 calories per serving

  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 32 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 1 cup prepared fat-free, sugar-free instant banana cream pudding
  • 1-1/2 cups fat free milk
  • 4 vanilla wafer cookies, crumbled
  1. To prepare pudding: In a bowl, whisk together 1 box banana cream pudding mix and 1-1/2 cups milk for 2 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  2. Remove the ends from peeled bananas and discard.  Cut each banana into 10 to 12 1/2 inch slices.
  3. Place vanilla wafer cookies on a platter; top each cookie with a banana piece.  Dollop a heaping teaspoon of pudding over each banana piece. Sprinkle with crumbled cookies to garnish.