Tag Archive | white chocolate

All smiles…and Cake Pops

Today I am all smiles because today’s the day Brandon arrives home from Australia. Hip hip hooray!!!  Can.not.wait. to hug him : )
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Confession: Ever since Brandon moved to Australia, I have a tradition of reading all the cards and notes he’s ever given to me each time we are about to be reunited. I’ve done this every time we’ve been apart and I even brought them all with me to Australia and did this when he went away on business trips. I like having them close to me because it just makes me feel like he’s with me.  Handwritten cards and notes=happiness in a box. They are the best gifts of all.

Truthfully though, I have a hard time stopping smiling around Christmas. Anyone else like this around this time of year? The joy in the air is absolutely contagious in my opinion! Last week I was all smiles in Connecticut with my sister and her puppies in Connecticut. Mostly we just shopped, did wedding-related, crafts, and baked, but I am pretty sure it was my favorite week of the year!
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I do believe that baked goods play a huge part in the joy of any time of year, but it’s especially apparent at Christmas. Baking and enjoying holiday goodies with my family is one of my favorite things about Christmas, so yesterday I decided I would devote a few hours to baking. Cleaning-up aside, baking is truly my favorite hobby. Cake pops were first up on my baking agenda since I’ve been excited to make them ever since I found a cake pop pan at T.J. Maxx. I’m pretty sure this pan is available at major stores, too, since cake pops are all-the-rage right now, but this was my first attempt using it and I absolutely loved it. Perfectly round cake pops, yes please!
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I am all about making desserts healthier, but for Christmas, I think the old-fashioned way is the best way, so real butter and real sugar make these cake pops a real winner! I opted to make chocolate cake with white chocolate and milk chocolate glazes, and lots of sprinkles of course. This homemade chocolate cake is super simple to make, too. Plus, with the help of the pan, it’s a fool-proof way to nearly perfect cake pops. I adapted this recipe directly from the pan wrapper itself, and it’s a definite winner. My Dad and I went crazy over the dough and the finished product.  If you make these, I think you will too!
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Christmas Cake Pops
Ingredients
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa (I used Godiva brand)
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
24 holiday lollipop sticks ( or regular, but I couldn’t resist the holiday sticks I found at Michaels!)
white chocolate, milk chocolate, or any type of chocolate for melting
Assorted sprinkles for decorating (optional)

Directions
1) Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, grease cake pop pan and set aside.
2) Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in a medium pan on the stovetop and melt over low-heat, stirring until smooth. Then remove from the heat and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
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3) Add the sugar and cocoa  to the bowl and mix until well blended, then add the eggs in one at a time and mix until blended.
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4) Lastly, add the flour and salt to this and stir until well blended.
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5) Now add spoonful’s of the batter to the bottom of the cake pop tin (the side without the holes). Make sure you mound the dough over each hole, this way it forms a perfect circle!
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6) Place the top of the pan over the bottom half and secure the clips. Bake for 15-18 minutes. (Mine took about 17 minutes). Check them with a toothpick at 15 minutes to be safe! Once your toothpick is nearly clean, remove them from the oven.
7) Let them cool in the pan for 5-8 minutes, then remove from the pan and place them on a cooling rack.
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8) Now re-grease the cake pop pan and repeat steps 5-7 to use up the remaining dough.
9) While the cake pops are cooling, set out your bowls of decorative sprinkles. I used 4 different kinds because I have a sprinkles problem : –) Then use a double boiler to melt your chocolate (I melt about 1 cup of chips at a time). I started out with white chocolate first.
Side note: This is the biggest bag of chocolate chips I’ve ever used!
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10) Once melted, dip an end of your lollipop stick in the chocolate first, then stick it into the cake pop and roll in chocolate, shaking off any excess chocolate. Then decorate with sprinkles and place on parchment paper. Repeat this process until the cake pops are covered!
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These are perfect for any holiday party! I love them because they’re perfect if you’re looking for a  portion-controlled dessert and they are just so darn cute.
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Merry Christmas!

What’s making you smile today?

Do you have any traditions with your boyfriend/husband/significant other?

What’s your favorite type of cake pop?
Mine is vanilla with pink frosting (you know, the one at Starbucks!) but chocolate is a close second!

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St. Patrick’s Day Sweets: Mint Muddy Buddies Mix

Hi there and happy weekend! Is anyone else celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday? I was super surprised when I was told that the holiday of the Irish is technically not celebrated here in Australia, especially after living in Boston for the last 4 years. St. Patrick’s day is just about one of the biggest  holidays of the year there in terms of parties and celebrations! However, since we’re American and both Brandon and I are a little-bit Irish, we are definitely celebrating, regardless of whether or not it’s celebrated here. And by celebrating, I mean I’ll do the baking and he’ll do the beer/wine drinking! Case in point:
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Thanks for the help, love! NOT!

Continuing on with my “no-bake” theme of the weekend, I searched Pinterest for St. Patrick’s Day- inspired recipes this morning, and when I found a “Thin-Mint Puppy Chow” recipe, I chose that as the base of my recipe inspiration. When I say I’m obsessed with puppy chow/muddy buddies, I whole-heartedly mean it. My Mom used to make these quite frequently for my sisters and me growing up, and they still remain a family favorite today. Today’s recipe is a bit different, as it swaps out your typical peanut butter and chocolate flavors for chocolate, white chocolate, and mint flavors. Plus, thanks to the lack of Chex cereal in Australia (seriously, I could not find one box!), I used a “Coco Pops Chex” cereal, that actually ended up being a stellar replacement. Just follow these steps and you’ll have a sweet treat to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in less than 20 minutes!

St. Patrick’s Day Mint Muddy Buddies Mix
Adapted from Your Cup of Cake
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Ingredients
For the chocolate portion:
5 cups Coco Pops Chocolate Chex (or any Chex-like cereal)
1.5 cups milk-chocolate chips/melts
1/4 cup powered sugar (called baking icing in Australia)
1/2 tsp. of mint extract

For the white-chocolate portion:
5 cups Coco Pops Chocolate Chex (or any Chex-like cereal)
1.5 cups white-chocolate chips/melts
3/4 cup powered sugar (called baking icing in Australia)
1 tsp. of mint extract
1/2 tsp. of green food coloring (or more depending on the level of “green” you’d like)

Optional:
Green chocolate candies (such as M&M’s or Cadbury drops)
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Directions:
1) Place 5 cups of Chex mix in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Then portion out your chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave them until melted, about 1.5-2 minutes (stir about halfway through), stirring until they are smooth. Add in the mint extract, and mix well.
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2) Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal and mix until the pieces are coated well. Then mix in the powered sugar until combined. (You can also do this in a large Ziploc bag if you prefer to shake rather than stir.)
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3) Next, dump the mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in order to cool.
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4) Now, for the white-chocolate mixture,  place another 5 cups of Chex mix in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Then portion out your white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave them until melted, about 1.5-2 minutes (stir about halfway through), stirring until they are smooth. Add in the mint extract and green food coloring to the white melted chocolate, and stir well.
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5) Pour the melted white chocolate over the cereal, and stir until the pieces are coated. Then mix in the powered sugar until it’s combined. (Again, you can also do this in a large Ziploc bag if you prefer to shake rather than stir!)
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6) Dump this mixture onto another parchment paper-lined baking sheet in order to cool.
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7) Once both mixes are cooled, combine them in a large Ziploc bag or a large bowl if you are serving them immediately. If you have green candies, add these to the mixture and stir.

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Festive muddy buddies=complete!

Instead of using a large bowl, I portioned my mixture into cupcake liners. Not only does this help me stick to a portion-or-two of the treat, I also think it’s a super-cute way to serve these at a party or gathering.
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A festive, tasty, simple treat with no-baking required is a serious winner in my book! Just look how big the batch is:
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We will be eating these all week…if they last that long! Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day : – )

There’s no place like home

My two weeks home in America has come and gone…insert sad face here. As much as I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, the one thing I didn’t mind leaving was the snow.  After just two months in this tropical climate, my body did not have the easiest time adjusting to the cold weather. After two snow storms in two weeks, by the time we boarded our flight home I was more than ready for warm weather!

Weather aside, I’ve quickly  learned that the hardest part about going home is going to be leaving. Really, what’s better than home? Familiar faces, places, people, smells, stories, and best of all…family. Here’s some pictures from our special Christmas:

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Best cupcakes ever

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035My twin and me <3

 

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059Nana
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068 In Boston with my best girls <3

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Of course, while I was home, I also baked…. a lot. Although most of it went undocumented, I did snap a few pictures of my personal favorite baked good over the holiday: Peppermint Oreo Truffles. I found this recipe through Pinterest, and immediately bookmarked it as a MUST-make! I blogged about regular Oreo Truffles last Christmas, which are always a hit recipe in our family, but these added a “Christmas” feel to the simple treat. Plus, if you’re like me and love anything with a mint flavor, you will love these!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles (Recipe from Kraft)

  • 36 reduced-fat Oreos
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 2-3 crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (for decorating)

Directions

  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside. Place the Oreos in a food processor and blend until finely crushed.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cream cheese and peppermint extract. Add about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture to the crushed Oreos in the food processor, blend, and then continue to add in the cream cheese until the cream cheese and Oreos are thoroughly combined, so it looks like the picture below.

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  • Now, scoop the mixture out with a spoon (or your hands) and form into 1 inch balls. I lined my hands with plastic sandwich bags to do this, because the mixture is a bit sticky!  Place the truffles on the prepared cookie sheet, and put them in freezer for 10-15 minutes.

 

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  • Crush your candy canes at this point, and set aside. Then melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler while the truffles are hardening in the freezer. Once melted, remove the truffles from the freezer and dip them in the melted chocolate, evenly coating them. You’ll have to do this pretty quickly, because the chocolate hardens in minutes! To do this,  I used a toothpick to pick up each truffle and roll it in the chocolate. Return the truffles to the baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes. I dipped about 3 truffles at a time, and then sprinkled each with the candy canes, so that the candy would stick to the chocolate! Once you’ve completed this process, store your truffles in the refrigerator.

 

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These looked adorable on the dessert table and tasted delicious, too. Now I miss Christmas…What was your favorite holiday recipe this year?

Winter white chocolate and pretzel holiday bark

Well, it’s official. ‘Tis the season of sweets is here! Yippee!Although it certainly doesn’t feel like the normal December that I’m used to (we’re in the midst of 90 degree temperatures in Australia, instead of freezing 5 degree New England temperatures), I’m not letting that stop me from taking part in my normal December holiday baking activities. Really, any excuse to bake is a great excuse to me, and since we had a holiday party to attend this past Saturday night, I felt it was an opportune time for me to try out a new-to-me holiday recipe.  I’ve made various versions of“holiday bark” in the past, including peppermint, cake batter, oreo, and more, and these recipes always appeal to me due to their simplicity and because of my love of any type of chocolate.  However, this recipe really stood out to me because instead of just including chocolate or candy like a traditional “bark”, it includes pretzels too. A sweet and salty combination? Sold. All you’ll need is a cookie sheet, tin-foil, and the following 4 ingredients. It’s fast, festive, and fantastic. Ready, set, go!

Winter White Chocolate and Pretzel Holiday Bark

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups white chocolate chips (you’ll need about 2 (12-ounce) bags of chips)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk ( I used the light 97% fat free version and it worked well)
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) bag pretzels, broken (I crushed mine in a bag by hand)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
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Directions:

1) First up, crush your pretzels. I simply placed them in a Ziploc bag, crushed them with my fist, and set them aside.
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2) In a large saucepan, melt white chocolate chips with the condensed milk over medium heat on the stove until smooth, stirring frequently. Once melted, add the pretzels, stirring them in to coat with chocolate mixture.
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3) Then, immediately spread mixture  evenly onto your  foil-lined 10×15-inch pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle  dried cranberries on top and press them down lightly with the back of a spoon, into the bark.  Place your tray into the fridge and chill until set (I chilled mine for a few hours. You can place them into the freezer if you need them more quickly). Then, break into chunks and serve.
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I’ll admit, I taste-tested a good portion of these before bringing them to the party. I really couldn’t help myself. The sweet-and-salty combination is spot-on, and the addition of dried cranberries really makes these a festive, holiday stand-out on a dessert table. Hope you’ll  include these in your holiday baking line-up this year, too!

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