Black Forest Chocolate Donut Holes

I love, adore, and married a paragon of self control.  For real, Micah can look at his favorite food and if it's bad for him, or he's already had some that day, he can walk away with no regrets.  Some of it's born of food sensitivities that he'd rather not deal with (which I get), and some of it is just sheer strength of will power (don't get that one).

But when you're like me and your biggest regrets in life are the pastries left behind, this can be as difficult to live with, let alone understand.  There's nothing worse than reeeaaallly wanting another cookie when your spouse is all "Oh, I've had one.  I'm good."  One? ONE?  How the heck am I supposed to go for number three after a comment like that?  These scenarios tend to inspire a mix of immense admiration and sheer puzzlement for me.

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And one of the biggest differences in our tastes is donuts.  Yes, you read that right.  The man doesn't like them.  I kinda get it in some circumstances, like grocery store varieties or even Dunkin' Donuts.  But a good donut is practically a piece of edible art in my book.  How can you not want them all?

But these chocolate cake donut holes from How Sweet Eats are one of the few that he has enjoyed. For real.  As in he voluntarily eats them.  Sometimes, if he's feeling really wild, he'll eat two!  That's a pretty red-letter day for me.

But I wanted to dress them up.  Give them a little 'zazz, if you will.  So I threw in one of my favorite flavor combos in the history of ever.  I've made a very authentic, from a European lady recipe Black Forest Cake before, which you can see here. (But cover your eyes.  The pictures are so brilliant you won't be able to take it.)  The pipettes definitely make them a little more fun, and I use these from Amazon.  A little bit of whipped white chocolate ganache adds a creamy bit of sweeness. What could be better than a donut that tastes like that cake, with a pipette of jelly to squeeze at your own pleasure?

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Nothing, I tell you.  Nothing could be better.  Hence these came to be.  And I have no regrets in life. 


Chocolate Funfetti Sugar Cookies

Is there anything better than sprinkles?

The answer is yes.  Chocolate and sprinkles is definitely better.

One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes is Joy the Baker's Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies.  They're light-hearted, chewy, and perfectly sweet. Kids are also pretty into them, so they get my full support as a mom.

But what if, I wondered?  What if we added chocolate and kept the texture and chew of the original? So I tried it.  And I failed.

Then I tried again, and I succeeded.  How's that for an inspirational story?


Hopefully it's inspirational enough to make you want to try them.  As if sprinkles and chocolate weren't enough.

And no children are required for the enjoyment of these cookies.  Because let's be real-- with this many sprinkles in the mix, you'll feel like a kid again soon.  A very happy, well-sugared kid.  I highly recommend it.

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Chocolate Funfetti Sugar Cookies
Funfetti cookies go to the next (chocolate-y) level.
  • 1/2 cup butter, salted
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup, plus more for rolling cookies jimmie sprinkles
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined.Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the 1/4 cup of jimmie sprinkles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.Preheat the oven to 325°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Pour about 1/2 cup of sprinkles into a small bowl. Make balls of dough that are about 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp. and roll them in the sprinkles until coated. Place 8 dough balls onto each baking sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand until about 1/4" thick. Bake for 6-7 minutes, or until the edges are set. It can be hard to tell when chocolate baked goods are done, but do not overbake or the cookies will be hard.Remove the first batch to a cooling rack with a metal spatula and repeat the baking process with the rest of the cookie dough balls.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 30 cookies

Chicken & Apple Salad

I'm posting a salad recipe on my birthday.  What is wrong  with me?  Maybe I'm subconsciously making up for the birthday cake from last week?

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When I was a kid, eating out was a rare luxury.  In a family of 12 (yes, you read that right) even the simplest of food added up quickly.  Which means that Chick-fil-a was a staple and a treat, and Panera Bread?  That was pretty much fine dining.

One of their favorite menu items has always been the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad.  The dressing is the best part for me-- sweet, but with a nice kick of vinegar that doesn't set your teeth on edge.  And the apple chips.  Oh how I love them.  I made my own apple chips for inspiration's sake, but probably wouldn't bother again because it just wasn't worth it.  But they really do take the salad to the next level.  

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Don't let the ingredient list fool you-- this goes together quickly, and most of the work can be done ahead of time.  Marinade the chicken one day, while it's baking make the dressing, and all you have to do at meal time is toss it all together.  Toast a little sourdough or set out a few muffins, and dinner is served!

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Fuji Apple Salad
  • 2-2.5 lbs. chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2/3 cup apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. golden balsamic
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large clamshell of spring greens
  • 1 cup, plus more for garnish on top apple chips
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
In a gallon sized zipper bag combine 1/2 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tsp. salt, basil, and oregano. Pound or butterfly (slice horizontally so that they are thin) the chicken breasts and add to the bag. Marinade for 3-4 hours, or overnight.Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the chicken on the sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it registers 165° on an internal thermometer. Allow to cool, then slice thinly.In a blender, combine the apple juice concentrate, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. honey, golden balsamic vinegar, ground mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, white pepper, and whole garlic clove. Blend until smooth.To serve, place the spring greens in a large serving bowl and toss with chicken, blueberries, 1 cup of apple chips, and almonds if using. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and apples on the top, and serve with the dressing on the side.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 Servings

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Like Mr. Darcy loved Elizabeth.  Like Gilbert loved Anne. Like Johnny loved June, and Mr. Rochester loves Jane.

That's how I feel about strawberries and chocolate.  


They just go together, you know? Like Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox.  Meant to be.


So when the strawberries and the chocolate got together to make me a birthday cake, what was I supposed to do?  Can't say no, and don't really want to.

The problem is that we're a small family, and big cakes are just too, well, big.  So the strawberries and the chocolate, when they got together, they took care of this problem.  They made me a little 6 inch one, so I can have my cake and eat it too.  Happy birthday to moi!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Based on King Arthur's Chocolate Fudge Cake
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    • 6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 4 strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate

For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350° and grease two 6" round cake pans very well. Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add in the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and beat for two minutes on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then stir in the water.   The batter will be thin.

Pour half of the batter into each cake pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and carefully tip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.  With a sharp knife, cut off the rounded to of the cake to flatten it, then carefully cut the layers in half horizontally.  

For the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Place a small pot with about an inch of water on a burner over low heat and place the mixer bowl over it.  Whisk the egg whites and sugar continuously until the mixture reaches 160°.

Place on the mixer and beat on medium high until the mixture reaches stiff peaks.  Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until each addition is completely incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated.

For the Filling: Place 3/4 cup of frosting in a bowl, and stir in the strawberry preserves.  

To Assemble Cake: Place one layer of the cake on a cake plate, then place 1/3 of the filling mixture on it.  Repeat with the rest of the cake layers and filling, finishing with the bottom of a cake layer on the top.  This gives you a finished edge to frost.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the cake and place it in the fridge to harden.  This is called the crumb coat, and should trap any crumbs and keep them from getting into the outer layer of frosting.  

Once the crumb coat has hardened, put a final, thicker coat of frosting on the cake, smoothing it evenly.  Reserve some for the decorations on top.  Allow the final layer to chill in the fridge.

To Decorate the cake: To decorate the cake, make a ganache.  Heat the whipping cream until simmering, then pour over 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir until it becomes cohesive and pourable.  Carefully pour over the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down over the sides (you may not need to use all of it).  Return to fridge to chill the ganache.

To make the chocolate covered strawberries, melt 1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate either over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring it every 10-15 seconds until smooth and melted.  Wash and completely dry the strawberries, then dip them in the chocolate while holding by the leaves.  Make sure that all sides are covered, then allow any excess chocolate to drip off.  Place on a baking tray in the refrigerator and allow to harden.  Place them on the cake, tips pointing towards the edge on each quarter of the cake.

Optional: Place the reserved buttercream icing in a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe a rosette (swirl) between each strawberry.  Pipe a large rosette in the middle.


Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake

This is brunch done right-- simple, indulgent, and ever so slightly fancy.


If I'm being honest, I usually dislike French Toast casseroles and bread puddings.  They just seem a bit soggy and bland.  Why would I eat mushy bread for breakfast on the weekend when I can have pretty much any other carb known to man and enjoy it infinitely more?

But this one has changed my mind.  I think because it's not as moist as most, and when you stack the whole bread slices in the dish rather than cutting them into cubes, the top gets nice and crusty.  Not to mention the crunchy sugar on top.  Can we talk about that for a minute?

That sugar is THE best part of this entire scenario, with it's bright orange-y-ness contrasting with the bittersweet chocolate.  On top of the crusty upper edge of the bread. On top of the chocolatey, custardy bread middle.  GAH.

But waitwaitwait.  Before we actually stop, let's talk about bread.  I used the BEST sourdough bread for this, because my husband had a connecting flight through SFO and brought me some.  That man speaks my love language.  The sourdough gives a nice tang and has a great crust, but you could also use a high quality challah or French bread.  Just make sure it's not sandwich bread, because that won't work.  Just...don't.  Trust me here. 

Also, this gets bonus points for being a make ahead breakfast.  Let it soak overnight, then bake it when you get up.  The oven can preheat while you brush your teeth, and it bakes while you shower.  You get an amazing breakfast and a head start on all that weekend relaxing you had planned.  Could life get any better?  I think not.

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Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake
  • 6-7 slices high-quality bread
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coarse sugar (turbinado, sugar in the raw, zulka, etc.)
  • Zest of one large orange, about 1 Tbsp.
  • 3 oz. high quality chocolate bar (60% or higher)
Let your bread slices sit out for a couple of hours until they are slightly dried. In a small bowl, combine the turbinado and orange zest and rub them together until frangrant. Break 2 oz. of the chocolate bar into small pieces about the size of a quarter, then chop the rest into small pieces. Whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, vanilla, and one tablespoon of the orange sugar. Melt the butter in a 5"x9" baking pan (a large loaf pan would also work well), then dip each slice of bread in it. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of orange sugar on each slice, then arrange in the baking dish by laying them at an angle and overlapping. Tuck 2-3 pieces of chocolate in between each piece of bread, then pour the egg, milk, and juice mixture over it. {Alternatively, you can cut the bread into 1" cubes and toss in the butter. Spread half in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle about two tablespoons of orange sugar over them, then lay the chocolate pieces on top. Spread the rest of the bread cubes over, then pour on the egg, milk, and juice mixture.} Cover the pan with foil and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining orange sugar, then replace the foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, of until the chocolate begins to look melted and the custard is set. Remove the foil, sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the top, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve warm, with or without syrup.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 Servings

Viennese Whirls

I have a very important question.  You know that hit bit of Brit telly, with a grandmotherly female judge and a strangely likable yet somehow not so lovable dude judge? Yeah, that one.

Do you call it The Great British Bake Off, or The Great British Baking Show?


Me, I personally go with the first. It may have something to do with the fact that I watch it on the British schedule (YouTube is life, baby), and it could have something with the fact that I think Baking Show just sounds kinda... lame.  The only reason the didn't call it Bake Off in the US of A is because Pillsbury actually had the gall to copyright that phrase.  And I'm like "Really, Pillsbury? REALLY?!"  So I rebel and call it Bake Off.

Oh, and the other thing?  Mary Berry is really the only judge for me-- she makes you feel like she puts such love and care into every little thing she bakes.  Not to mention that NAME! I might try petitioning my husband to change our last name to Berry, because can you think of anything better than that? I can't.


Anyway, fangirling aside, these are Mary Berry's Viennese Whirls, but I converted the recipe to volume measurements.  Because letsbereal, Americans like their cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.  They may not be as exact as a scale (or as expensive), but they sure as anything are easy to work with.  

If you aren't GBBO obsessed, 1) these are featured on Netflix season 4, episode 2, 2)What is WRONG with you?, and 3) here are a few pointers:

  1. get that butter SOFT.  This dough is going to be piped, and your hands don't need any of that stiff dough nonsense to deal with.
  2. You can't do the whole Ziploc bag for piping thing-- you need a real piping bag with a coupler and star tip.  They're all pretty cheap (WalMart usually has a decent selection, and so do Michaels and Hobby Lobby.), and the dough won't be popping holes in that bag.
  3. The cookies and buttercream freeze incredibly well separately, so all you have to do is pull them out, fill them, and eat.

Light, buttery, and only slightly sweet, the cookies are perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the buttercream and the tartness of the jam.  Traditionally, raspberry jam is used, but I used Bonne Maman's Four Fruits Preserves because I love love  LOVE all of their flavors, but that one is pretty much the best of all worlds.  Really though, you could pick any flavor you wanted so long as it's bright and colorful and pretty.  Because pretty food tastes even better, right? 


Mary Berry's Viennese Whirls

  • 1 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. All Purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup powder sugar
  • 1 cup of very soft butter
  • 2 cups powder sugar
  • 7 Tbsp. of very soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, or any other flavor that you prefer

Cookies: Preheat your oven to 375° and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.  You can use a round cutter to trace 2 inch circles onto the bottom side of the parchment, or you can freehand the circles when you pipe them on.

In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together the cup of butter with the 1/2 cup of powder sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift in the flour and cornstarch, then beat until fully incorporated.  

Fit a piping bag with the coupler and a large star tip (like this) and fill with the dough.  Pipe 2" rounds onto the parchment paper.  If the dough is extremely soft, refrigerate it for 15 minutes to help the dough maintain it's shape in the oven, then bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden and very lightly browned around the edges.  

Filling: Beat together the 2 cups of powdered sugar, 7 Tbsp. butter, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Spoon into another piping bag fitted with coupler and star tip.  Pipe the buttercream onto the flat side of half of the cookies, and spread about 1/2 tsp. of jam onto the other half.  Sandwich them together and refrigerate until the buttercream is firm.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.


Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake

I feel like winter fruits don't get as much press as their spring, summer, and even fall counterparts.  Sure, there are plenty of citrus and pomegranate recipes out there, but they don't get nearly the same amount of attention as the berries, stone fruits, apples and (of all things) pumpkins.


I will admit to being as guilty as the next food lover, since strawberries would pretty much be my theoretical last meal if I had to choose.  Maybe with a side of chocolate.  It's my last meal, who said it had to be balanced?

But I feel like pomegranate needs a little bit more loving.  They're unique.  They're gorgeous.  They taste like they probably were around back in Eden.  Plus they have a boatload of antioxidants, so HEALTHY! Though I think that the sugar in this cheesecake may undo some of their health benefits, if I'm being honest. That is no good reason to not eat it though. 


A few little things you should know before you start this.  It's a commitment.  The added moisture of the pomegranate swirl means that there's extra moisture, and therefore extra cooking time.  But the long, slow bake?  That means that this will be the creamiest, smoothest cheesecake you've ever encountered.  I dare you to prove me wrong.


Happy baking, and more importantly, happy eating!

Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake

Based on Martha Stewart's Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
Serves 12
Prep time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 32 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  •  1 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350° F and tightly wrap the bottom of a 10" springform pan in foil.  In a bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until thoroughly combined.  Pat the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan in an even layer and bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely

In a small pan whisk together pomegranate juice, 2 tbsp. sugar and cornstarch until completely blended. Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened but is still pourable. Set aside to cool, but do not chill.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes or until smooth and light.  Turn the mixer speed down to low and slowly pour in the 1 1/2 cups of sugar, then salt and and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add eggs one at a time and stir until just combined.  Do not overmix.

Pour a quarter of the cream cheese mixture over the crust, then drizzle about 3 Tbsp. of the pomegranate sauce over it.  Carefully spoon another quarter of the cream cheese over it, then another layer of pomegranate sauce.  For the third layer, use up the remaining cream cheese mixture, being sure to cover up the last layer of pomegranate sauce.  Now comes the fun part. Drizzle another 3-4 Tbsp. of the pomegranate sauce on the top .  Using a thin bladed knife or a thin skewer, swirl the sauce around to create swirls in any pattern (or as randomly as) you choose.  You will have pomegranate sauce left.

Place the cheesecake in a pan at least 11" across and set on a rack placed in the middle of the oven.  Pour warm water into the bottom of the pan, and carefully close the door.  Bake for 45 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent the top from browning and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 325° and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, or until all but about 2 inches in the middle are completely set.  Check it frequently to make sure that it's not getting over done.

When the cheesecake is finished, open the oven door and let it cool for ten minutes before taking it out.  Allow it to cool completely to room temperature before refrigerating, then chill completely.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan before releasing.  Slice it with the same knife, cleaning the blade between each cut.  Serve with the leftover pomegranate sauce.  Cheesecake will keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator if covered in plastic wrap.

Note: If your pomegranate sauce becomes too thick after refrigerating, put it in the microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring each time.  You may need to thin it slightly with more pomegranate juice.


Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Do you remember that line in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks' character write's to Meg Ryan's that he's working on a project that needs...tweaking?

That's kind of how I approached these cinnamon rolls.  I used Pioneer Woman's recipe because they're the bomb, but I made a few little adjustments here and there. The full recipe makes waaaayyyy too many, so I cut it in half. Instead of using all oil, I used half butter & half canola oil, because BUTTER. And sorry, but I don't do coffee, so I did a simple vanilla frosting instead of the  maple coffee one she uses.  But other than that?  Totally the same...ish.

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Except that instead of rolls as big as your fist, these ones are as cute as a button.  The idea of a monstrous cinnamon roll to start the day off kinda gives me a headache.  The reality of it puts me into a sugar coma.  And that ain't no way to start any day.

So I made them mini! Throw in some fruit and eggs, and you have a perfect, indulgent weekend breakfast. (That was a hint about what you should do this weekend.)

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Mini Cinnamon Rolls

  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup reserved
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 4-5 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

To make the dough: Combine the milk, butter, oil, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until barely simmering, then place in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Allow it to cool until lukewarm (if it's any hotter than 110°, it'll kill the yeast).  When it has cooled, sprinkle in the yeast and allow to soften for about 2 minutes.  Add in the four cups of flour all at once and mix in your stand mixer with a dough hook until it is all combined.(see Note)  Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to sit for about an hour.

After an hour, the dough will have risen significantly.  Add the reserved 1/2 cup of flour with the salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir until well combined-- the dough will be fairly soft and sticky.  At this point, you can use it immediately or refrigerate it overnight-- I typically work with it after refrigerating.

For baking the rolls: Preheat the oven to 350° and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper and edges of the pan well and set aside

To make the rolls, divide the dough into half.  Using your hands, roll into a cylinder shape. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough into a rectangle about 7"x 22." Pour 3 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough and spread out evenly, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Roll the dough towards yourself lengthwise, making sure to keep the roll fairly tight.  Pinch the ending edge of the dough to the roll and turn over so that the seam side is down.  Using a very sharp knife, cut 1"sections off of the end of the roll.  Place each small roll on the pan.  Repeat with second half of dough.

Allow the rolls to rise for about 10-15 minutes, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center rolls are begging to lightly brown and measure 180° on an instant read thermometer.

For the Icing: Combine the 3 tablespoons of melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk.  Add milk until the desired consistency is reached.  I like mine to but thin enough to run a bit, but make sure it's not too watery or it will just soak into the rolls.  Pour the icing over the warm, freshly baked cinnamon rolls and enjoy!

Note: The dough can be make by hand, but the mixer does make it a lot easier.  To mix, simply use a sturdy wooden or metal spoon in place of a dough hook.  This method doubles as an arm workout.

Chocolate Toffee Popcorn

When I was growing up, my mom's best friend made English Toffee every Christmas.  It was one of the best parts of Christmas during those years when somehow, eating essentially cooked down butter and sugar, topped with chocolate, didn't make me think twice or gain an ounce.  What was my life?


Toffee is one of the best things all year round (see above regarding butter and sugar), though I seem to have misplaced the modicum of self-control that had become part of my life (see above regarding butter and sugar) until this year.  Having grown a human and brought him into this world a mere two months ago, I'm blaming any um, extra on him.  He's down with it though-- I asked and he just grinned and cooed.  So we're all good over here.


This year I took the toffee and tossed it in popcorn before drizzling with chocolate.  Then I started dramatically started singing "A Whole New WORLD!" until my three year old informed that it's not a seasonally appropriate song.  

But this really is the ultimate party food.  Maybe to ring in the New Year? Easy for snacking, classy and eye catching.  Highly addictive, so everyone will think that you're some sort of magician who is blessed with culinary gifts from the gods. 

Of course, some of it has to actually make it to the party.  I wish you luck with that part.


Chocolate Toffee Popcorn

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

Place the coconut oil in a 12 qt. pot over medium-high heat with three kernels of popcorn in it.  Cover and allow the oil to heat until the three kernels have popped, then add the rest of the popcorn at once and cover quickly.  Shake vigorously nearly constantly while the popcorn pops.  Remove from the heat when the popping has slowed so that you only hear a pop only every 5-8 seconds.  Also make sure that you don't smell any scorching and if you do immediately take the popcorn off of the heat.

Measure out 16 cups of the popcorn into a large bowl that's not plastic, avoiding getting any unpopped kernels in your bow.  Set out two baking sheets (preferably with edges).

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and water.  Heat on medium, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly as the butter and sugar melt and begin to bubble. Continue cooking and stirring for about 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture has reached 300 degrees on a candy or instant read thermometer.  If you don't have a thermometer, it is done when the mixture is the color of a raw almond skin.

Once the toffee is ready, slowly drizzle over the popcorn with one hand while quickly tossing it with a long-handled fork (a serving fork does nicely) to coat as evenly as possible.  You need to work quickly, as the toffee is somewhat thick and will harden quickly.

Once the toffee has coated the popcorn, pour half of the mixture onto each baking sheet.  Once the mixture has cooled enough to handle without burning your hands, break any large clumps up with your fingers.

Once the toffee has cooled and hardened completely, melt down the chocolate and drizzle about half over each of the sheets.  Lightly toss with a fork to spread out the chocolate more and allow it to harden.  Keeps for about a week in an air-tight container, if it lasts that long!

Notes: Because toffee contains melted sugar at a very high temperature, be very careful when working with it.  Burns happen quickly and can be very painful and serious.  

You may have extra popcorn. You can coat it with a little bit of butter and salt for a lighter snack.

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Blossoms

 These are pretty much what would happen if a Chocolate Crinkle Cookie and a Peanut Butter Blossom got together and had a pretty, tasty, wintery baby. But like so many of our children, they have a bit more pizazz than their somewhat tired, more experienced parents. #newparenttalking


To be completely honest, crinkle cookies have never been my favorites. I mean, there's nothing wrong with them, but if I'm scanning the Christmas cookie plate, they just don't have the wow factor of some of the other offerings. Pretty, yes, but why eat plain chocolate when you can probably have a bit more flavor thrown in the mix at the festive time of year?

Peanut Butter Blossoms, on the other hand, are kind of a weakness. Maybe a little retro, nice and chewy (which is the best way for cookies to be, can I get an amen?), and then the chocolate prize at the end. Or beginning. You get to decide. 


These are also great for making with a toddler if you don't mind saying "don't touch the pan, it's hot" about 50 times before your three year old starts shrieking because "OH NO, THEY JUST TOUCHED THE PAN!" And guess what? It was hot. Maybe put the cookies on a cool sheet before allowing the kids to have free reign and put the kisses on. Because they really will love feeling like they are involved and doing important things with you, and that's what holiday baking memories are about, right?

I started with Lindsay at Life, Love, and Sugar's basic crinkle cookie recipe, because she seems like a pretty good authority when it comes to all things sweet and because I pretty drool on my phone every time she posts a photo on Instagram.  From there I just added all of the mint and kisses I thought were ethically supportable, and you pretty much have the finished product.  Merry Christmas baking!


Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Blossoms

Makes 24-28 Cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp salted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 24 - 28 candy cane kisses


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter and pour into the bowl of your mixer, then stir in the cocoa powder until a paste forms. Add in the eggs, vanilla, and peppermint extract and beat until smooth and combined.

3. In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Add the wet ingredients and mix until combined. The mixture may seem dry, but will come together as you mix.

4. Shape dough into balls approximately 1.5 tablespoons in size and roll in powdered sugar. Arrange on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are still soft in the centers and remove from oven.

5. Let cookies cool on the sheets for about five minutes, then gently press a Candy Cane Kiss into the center of each of them. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Note: Be sure to use peppermint extract rather than mint extract. Mint extract has other flavors (like spearmint and wintergreen) and can give a toothpaste flavor to the cookies.

Also, because the candy cane kisses are white chocolate and softer than regular kisses, you have to let the cookies cool for five minutes before adding them or they will almost melt down completely




Apple Twist Bread Wreath

A few weeks ago found me trekking through an apple orchard with one of my very best friends, my three year old, and my very pregnant self.  There was also a half-bushel bag that I had rather rashly chosen over the "tiny" peck-sized bags.  Suffice it to say, we came home with a LOT of apples, and as a result have been eating apples and all of the apple things.  This bread is the result of my overly ambitious picking, and a rather enjoyable consequence at that.


This bread was mostly inspired by King Arthur Flour's September bakealong challenge.  Beautiful pictures of the apple twist loaves started popping up in my Instagram feed, but I was busy that weekend and couldn't participate.  Fast forward a few weeks, and with a bit of spare time, and a lot of apples to play with, I decided to give it a try.  But being me, I felt the need to tweak.  So I changed up the bread recipe (Um, does anyone actually keep mashed potatoes in their fridge to randomly use in bread?  I don't.) and doubled up the filling.  The glaze though?  That definitely stayed.


All of those swirly layers of cinnamony, gooey, apple-y goodness? They're cozied up with some of the softest, pillowy of breads.  Fall flavors aren't typically my favorite, but this recipe will probably become an annual happening.  


For the Bread:

  • 1 Cup of milk
  • 1/4 Cup of Butter
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Yeast
  • 2 1/4-1/2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt

Apple Filling

  • 1.5 Cups of Apples
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Cornstartch


  • 1-1 1/4 cup sifted Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

In a medium pan, combine milk, butter, and sugar.  Warm over medium heat until butter has melted, then allow to cool until it's lukewarm, about 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sprinkle with yeast and let sit for a couple of minutes to let it soften.  Beat in the egg, then the flour and salt.  The dough should be soft, but not too sticky to work with.  If the dough is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time, until a workable consistency. Allow to rise for about an hour, or until dough has nearly doubled in size.

While dough is rising, prepare the apple filling.  Cut the apples into small chunks, 1/2" at most, place in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with lemon juice.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch.  Stir into the apples, add the butter, and cook over low heat until the butter is melted and the juice from the apples has begun to cook out. turn the heat up to medium-low and continue cooking until the juices bubble and have thickened, about 5-8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is approximately 12"x 20."  Spread the cooled apple filling onto the dough, then roll it lengthwise, as you would if you were making cinnamon rolls, and pinch the edge closed.  With a very sharp knife, cut the roll in half along the length, then gently turn the half-rolls onto their sides with the filling side up.  

Offset the ends by a few inches, then gently lift one half-roll over the other along the whole length to create a twist, keeping the filling side up.  Bring the ends together to create a ring, tucking the ends together.  Place the ring on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until dough is soft and puffy.  Rising time may vary depending on the temperature of the room.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the bread ring on a rack in the center.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the ring is golden brown.  A thermometer inserted in the center should read at least 180 degrees.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and cream and beat until a smooth frosting is formed.  Place the glaze in a disposable zippered bag and trim the corner off and squeeze over the bread, or apply it with a spoon.

Note: Bread can be prepared one day and baked the next.  Prepare the wreath and place it on sheet and cover immediately with a clean, unscented plastic bag.  Refrigerate until ready to bake.  Remove the bread from the refrigerator and allow to sit for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until dough has come to room temperature and has become puffy and risen.  Continue with baking normally.

Note: The bread freezes very well! Pre-slice and freeze on a tray before transferring to a zipper freezer bag. Pull out and thaw at room temperature.  

Blackberry Straciatella Ice Cream

Does something being on sale make it in season?  I'm going with yes.

Last week, Sprouts had a weekend sale on blackberries for $1/package, and I grabbed up four of them with no particular plans in mind.  Then, because I kind of sort of REALLY bought way too much whipping cream for an event that I was making desserts for, I had a lightbulb moment and decided to make ice cream.  It helps that I'm 39.5 weeks pregnant, and am totally taking advantage of the "pregnant ladies eat ice cream" stereotype while I can.

Blackberry Ice Cream_1.jpg

I've done a lot of reading about ice cream making, since most homemade efforts can be really disappointing.  Due to the lack of gums, additives, and extra air that only industrial ice cream makers can add, it tends to be a soft, runny mess or a complete brick when frozen hard.  There are all kinds of fixes given in various recipes.  Corn syrup is the answer!  Add more fat from whipping cream or egg yolks!  Alcohol doesn't freeze either, so throw in a glug!

Blackberry Ice Cream_2.jpg

Since sugar and fat are already in plentiful supply when it comes to ice cream, and booze is generally too strong to be pleasant, I started thinking about the only other variable that I knew of and wasn't implementing-- air.  The average home machine doesn't run fast enough to incorporate extra air, so I had to figure out another way to get it in.  And the whipping cream held my answer.

Before adding to the custard, I beat half of the whipping cream until it formed soft peaks, and carefully added it into the custard just after it began churning.  Holding my breath and saying a prayer, I let the ice cream finish it's time in the cooler (sorry. ish.) then put it in the freezer to see if it came out a brick.  And guess WHAT? IT DIDN'T! (<----sorry I yelled.  But it's exciting!)

It came out soft and scoopable, but still firm enough to hold a shape.  It has a light, airy feel in your mouth without being overly thick or goopy.  Even my husband, the Sceptic, was impressed when he ran a spoon through it.

Blackberry Ice Cream_4.jpg

One little side note.  I know  that Straciatella is traditionally a gelato flavor.  In fact, it's pretty much my favorite gelato.  But I look the sharp, crackling little shards of chocolate so much, I decided to add it to this ice cream, and I have #noregrets.  So maybe you can forgive me?  Even if you're Italian?  You could even prove it by making it and telling me how much you love it.  

Blackberry Straciatella Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Christmas Eve is 10 days away.  We've only got 11 'til Christmas. There are 17 more sunrises and sunsets before the resolutions kick in and we set aside the cookies for kale and the loungewear for gym clothes.  I say we live it UP!  All of the cookies, cakes, and chocolate we can take for the next few weeks before austerity (or reality, if you prefer) kicks in.

Shortbread is my idea of cookie perfection.  It's simple and timeless, not overly sweet yet still decadent, and can be appreciated any season, event, or holiday. They can be perfect whether they come from the kitchen of a novice or a professional.  They're classy and appealing without being pretentious or stuffy.

The brown sugar in these add another layer of flavor, while the sprinkling of turbinado sugar on the top give a subtle bit of crunch to the soft crumble of the texture.

Shortbread has to be poked, or it will bubble up and become uneven during baking.  This is the fun part!  I used a (clean, of course) drinking straw in the center, then the flat end of a toothpick for the smaller holes.  You could also employ a fork or any other thing that will poke small, even holes for heat to escape and keep your cookies flat and even. 

These are best with a cup of something hot and comforting to drink, and a friend to share them with.  But that makes everything better, doesn't it?

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter (I recommend a high-quality brand)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Turbinado, or any other large-grain sugar, for sprinkling

In a large mixing bowl (you can also use a stand mixer if you're doubling it), cream butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth and fluffy.  Combine the flour and salt and slowly beat into the butter and sugar.  It may look crumbly and dry at first, but if you keep mixing it will eventually form a smooth dough.  Dough can be used immediately, or left in the refrigerator for up to a week.  If you a going to chill it, be sure to allow time for it to soften before it is baked.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until it's approximately 1/4" thick.  At this point, you can cut out shapes (totally fun) or cut it into 2" rectangles or squares (totally traditional). Just rock your final design, get them on the baking pans, then make sure to prick small holes  and give a sprinkling of turbinado sugar before putting the cookies in the oven.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, until the edges are beginning to turn golden brown and the centers don't look dough-y.

Remove to cooling rack and enjoy!  These are best within a week, but they freeze beautifully for up to a month.



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Salted Caramel Apple Mousse Cakes

Life is full of frightening things.  The world we live in is overrun with people full of hate and empty of all light, those we love are capable of causing hurt, and we spend our whole lives fighting demons of our own.  But sometimes, we can find that the thing we feared, if we just go for it, may not be the frightening thing we imagined, and may end up bringing so much happiness and enjoyment.

This dessert was one of those things for me. I would read words like "mousse," and they made me want curl up in the fetal position and realize that I wasn't good enough.  Or at least, that's what I assumed, because it seemed like something that needed to be perfect. And I'm so very far from perfect in anyway, shape or form, with my baking and cooking following suit.  

But I've started to just go for it.  Make the mousse, and maybe it'll be a soupy mess, maybe it'll be a cube of jello, but just do it.  Stack your mousse in layers on cake, and enjoy the fact that you created something that tastes good, even if it's not a masterpiece.  And enjoy the process, no matter what.  Enjoy creating and loving others in the process.

And you know something?  These weren't perfect.  My mousse was the right consistency (yay!), but the layers weren't completely even or as distinct as I wanted, and the apple roses didn't look like they had been perfected by a pastry chef.  But you want to know something else?  They were enjoyed together with friends, and the flaws weren't seen, ignored, or were forgotten in the fun of good company.  And that's how good food should be, don't you think?

Don't be daunted by the number of elements and steps in these.  None of them are individually that hard, so take it one at a time, and it'll all come together.  You can even do it over the course of several days (Cookies can be baked ahead and even frozen), and they will keep overnight in the fridge to make serving as stress-free as possible. 

Salted Caramel Apple Mousse Cakes

Apple Spice Cake

  • 1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 6 Tbsp. applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of peeled apple, very finely chopped

Salted Caramel Mousse

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream at room temperature
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1.5 tsp. powdered plain gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1.5 cups cold heavy whipping cream

Vanilla Mousse

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded, or two teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. powdered plain gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp. cold water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold

Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/4 Cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Apple Roses & Caramel for Topping

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, and sliced as thinly possible
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 3-4 Tbsp. whipping cream at room temperature
  • a pinch of coarse sea salt

For the Apple Cake: Preheat oven to 350, and grease a jelly roll pan well.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder & soda, and spices and whisk until well combined.  

Place brown sugar in a mixing bowl, and make sure there are no clumps.  Using a hand mixer, or by hand, stir in oil and applesauce.  Next, mix in eggs and vanilla.  Add 1/2 of the flour until well blended, then stir in the milk.  Stir in the rest of the flour and mix until well combined.  Fold in the chopped apples.

Spread the mixture onto the pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, then use a 2.5" biscuit or donut cutter to cut twelve cake circles.

If you have pastry circles, you can use those, but if you don't have them (like me!), use flexible plastic sheet (such as folder sleeves) and tape them around the cake circles to make molds for the mousse to set in.  Make sure to very lightly spray either plastic sheets or pastry circles.

For the Salted Caramel Mousse: Place 1 cup of sugar in a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sugar has melted, then swirl the pan until the sugar has reached 350 degrees and is a light amber color.  Remove the sugar from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter.

Add the 1/2 cup of cream to the pan, and whisk to combine. Cool, then add in the salt to the desired flavor.

Stir cold water into the gelatin, and allow to soften for one minute.  Whisk into the caramel mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it reaches stiff peaks.  With a spatula, fold in the salted caramel until combined.  Spoon or pipe mousse onto the apple cake, into the molds, smoothing out the tops.  Place in the refrigerator until the mousse has set, approximately 2 hours.

For the Vanilla Mousse: In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of the whipping cream with the vanilla seeds and pods, if using.  Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are light yellow and smooth.  Slowly whisk in the warm cream.  Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan, and cook over medium-low heat while stirring constantly until mixture has thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add the vanilla extract if using.  Prepare an ice water bath.

Stir the gelatin into the cold water, and allow to soften for about 1 minute.  Stir into the egg and cream mixture until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  Strain into a clean bowl through a sieve, then place the bowl into the ice water bath and whisk until the mixture thickens and cools.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it reaches stiff peaks.  With a spatula, fold in the egg and cream mixture.  Pipe or smooth onto the top of the caramel mousse, and place in refrigerator to set up, about 2 hours.

For the Shortbread Cookies: Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth, then add vanilla, salt, and flour.  Mix to create a dough.  Roll out to about a 1/4 inch thick and cut in rounds a bit smaller than the mousse cakes.  Prick with a fork and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden.

For the Apple Roses and Caramel Topping: Peel and slice a Granny Smith apple as thinly as possible (no really, thinner).  Place five slices in a row on a baking sheet, overlapping them half way on top of each other.  Repeat 12 times.  Bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes, just until the slices are tender but still firm.  Roll each  section of five slices as tightly as possible and secure with a toothpick.  Refrigerate overnight.

For the caramel topping, place 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sugar has melted, then swirl the pan until the sugar has reached 350 degrees and is a light amber color.  Remove the sugar from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter.

Add the 3-4 Tbsp. of cream to the pan until the consistency is caramel like and not runny, and whisk to combine. Spread over the tops of the cookies, and place an apple rose in the center of each while the caramel is still warm, removing the toothpicks. Place the cookies with roses on the tops of each mousse cake, and serve with much love.