Happy Fall!

Sunday, we got a beautiful glimpse of perfect fall weather. It’s my favorite season, and I feel like I’ve been waiting for a long time.

Fall makes me think of Austin, usually… and back to school. But mostly, I love it because I can use pumpkin in every recipe again.

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli…. you name it, if it has pumpkin, I automatically love it.

I’ll be making pumpkin bread next week for a co-worker’s birthday, so check in for that recipe.

Today, I brought my news friends sopapilla cheesecake bars, and they were a hit!
bars done

Not that I need an excuse to bake, but work really does give me the perfect reason. I have a little at home, and I take the rest to the station to get devoured. I always come home with an empty plate, and I am not complaining about that!

The really wonderful thing about the sopapilla cheesecake is that it is SO easy to make, and you can be eating it in less than an hour, assuming you prepare beforehand.

 

So, here’s my recipe. Next time, I may just try this with pumpkin as well.

Ingredients

2 cans of crescent rolls. Find these where you’d buy biscuits, in the refrigerated dairy section of your grocery store.

Any brand will work, and sometimes, you can get them on sale for about 2 dollars a can.

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese. Let it sit out and soften before you start making your dessert.

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla. Or more, because more never hurts.

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, melted or softened, if you’ve left it out.
 

Preheat oven to 350°F
Unroll one can of crescent rolls and press into the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish. You want to cover the bottom, but don’t go up the sides. Pretend it’s like a pie crust. Press the perforations to seal it up.
In a bowl, beat your cream cheese with one cup of sugar until it’s blended. Add your vanilla, and beat again.baked

Spread your mixture over the dough in the baking dish.
Cover the cream cheese with the second can of crescent roles. Again, you’ll have to do some stretching and pressing so it’s all covered up.
Pour or spread your butter over the top.
Mix your cinnamon and the remaining half cup of sugar, and sprinkle that evenly across the dough. You should have enough to cover it completely.
Pop that into the over for 30 minutes.
When it comes out, let it cool for another 20 minutes. They’re great warm or cold.
You’ll want to store it in the fridge (cream cheese, y’know) but you can heat them up in the microwave if you prefer warm cheesecake bars.
You can even drizzle on some honey, if you want to get really authentic.
cheesecake bars
I hope you enjoy! The cinnamon is a perfect way to welcome fall into your home!

Blackberry, lime and cardamom bars with homemade brown sugar

It’s officially the first day of spring, and nothing seems more springy to me than berries. I had some leftover blackberries, an extra pie crust I made and rolled out in the freezer, and some spare time. This is what resulted:Blackberry lime cardamom bars
See that brown sugar on top? I made that, too! It’s so easy!

The bars were mostly an experiment. I really just didn’t want my blackberries to go to waste. I don’t really have a recipe for them, but I’ll try to give you some general guidelines, and your taste will just have to decide.

Blackberry lime cardamom bars

I used a shortbread pie crust I had made over the weekend as my bottom, but any pie crust recipe would work. Find my go-to recipe here.

For the Blackberry Filling:
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
a couple of squeezes of lime juice, or one whole fresh lime
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cardamom
6 cups blackberries

Pour sugar and lime juice over berries, and wait until they break down. Stir until a liquid forms. Blackberry filling
Add the rest of your ingredients, whisk together, and add more sugar if it’s too tart. Personally, I like tart, so I tend to keep some sugar out.

Pour into your buttered baking dish with your crust stretched over the bottom in a semi-thick layer. If you want to pre-bake your crust a little bit, that’s up to you.

Bake bars at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the top doesn’t jiggle.

As the pie bars bake, make your brown sugar by combining white sugar with sorghum or molasses. Homemade brown sugarYou’ll have to blend it with your fingers for the best results and most even distribution. Add your brown sugar topping as soon as the bars come out of the oven, and let them cool together.Blackberry lime and cardamom bars with brown sugar
Enjoy!

Everything is new again

Moving just seems to be in my DNA. I moved around a lot as a child, and it looks like that trend has no plans to stop any time soon. I’m actually not a fan of starting over, or change in general. I like things to stay the same. But I find myself in a new city, in a new apartment, with a new job. As for the job- I love it. I’m doing the same thing, just in a better place.

Change can be good right? That’s how you learn. I keep reminding myself that no one ever grows without change, but it’s a hard sell.

Speaking of learning, I learned what happens when you add too much baking powder to a recipe, but more on that later.

For Christmas, I got a beautiful Nordic Ware bundt pan. It was featured on the November cover of Southern Living, and I fell in love with it on a plane ride to Calgary. My wonderful boyfriend (who understands my kitchen obsession) bought it for me after we saw it in a wonderful little shop in Galveston. (Side note: I cried a little in that shop because everything was so perfect. Plus, the owner’s name was Alicia, too, and she worked in PR for years and then decided to follow her dreams and open up the Kitchen Chick, and bake happily ever after. I felt like her story would be my story some day.) Ever since then, I’ve been dying to use it, but I haven’t really had the chance to do any baking in my new place since I’ve been so busy getting it organized and adjusting to my new night schedule.

Last night, that all changed. I came home and decided that midnight was the perfect time to make my first bundt cake. Per usual, I did my own thing when it comes to recipes, so here’s mine for what I’m calling an apple pumpkin bunt with maple glaze.

Apple Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze

Apples:

  • 2 chopped Granny Smith applesapples
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Cut up your apples, throw away the core. I left the skin on mine. Saute them in butter until they get soft, add the brown sugar to the pan, and stir until you have a nice thick syrup. Put the mixture into a bowl to cool, and come back to it later.

Cake:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking sodabatter

Beat granulated sugar and 1 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add pumpkin and vanilla; beat just until blended.

Stir together 3 cups flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition.

unbaked cake

Spoon half of batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Spoon apple mixture over batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border around outer edge. Reserve some of the liquid. Spoon remaining batter over apple mixture.

prep surface

Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool *in pan for 15 minutes, and then flip it over onto a dish, and frost it if you want your glaze (or frosting) to melt down.

Maple glaze:

  • Apple liquid
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla
  • Maple extract
  • Powdered sugar

Now, all of this is to taste… so the amount you use depends on how much glaze you want, and how much apple liquid you have left over. I whisked all my wet ingredients together, then added powdered sugar in half-cup quantities until I had the consistency right. You want it a little runny, but if you leave it alone for awhile, you want to top to glaze over, forming a kind of crust.

finished with pan

As soon as you flip that cake out, go ahead and drizzle this all over it. The warm cake will let it melt down, and when they cool together, the glaze will harden.

close up cake

Then, eat up, because if you bring it to your friends, it’ll be gone before you get the chance!

(side story: I accidentally put in two TABLESPOONS of baking powder instead of two teaspoons… the cake rose WAY too fast, and spilled out all over my brand new oven… I finally got smart and put a baking sheet under it to catch all the drip. But, I’m glad I didn’t take it out and throw it away, because it still turned out delicious. It *was a little crumbly, but the pumpkin and apples did a great job holding the interior together.)

A Thanksgiving Staple- Pumpkin Pie

I love all things Thanksgiving. It’s my absolute favorite holiday, and for the past few years, I’ve been away from family for the most part, so I’ve had to host my own. Seriously, no complaints. I love going all out with more than anyone could ever eat in one day. I like having people over, but most of all, I like the process of cooking with friends, or family, or people who’ve become a little bit of both.

While many of you prepare a traditional feast (as do I!), sometimes, people leave out the desserts. I don’t know why, because nothing says Thanksgiving like a pumpkin pie.

I’m a huge fan of pumpkin, and during this time of the year, I go crazy making everything I can think of with the ingredient…. but no weird stuff in this pie. Just a good, tried-and-true recipe with a little decorative flair.

Crushed Pecan Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp shortening
  • 3 tsp ice water

Combine all ingredients with a pastry blender so the heat from your hands doesn’t melt the butter. Once you have a good combined consistency, you can start forming a doughball with your floured hands.

At this point, I rolled my pie dough in crushed, roasted pecan bits. It makes the dough harder to roll out for a crust, but when the oils release in the oven, it also helps keep the crust from cracking.

Don’t forget to poke it with a fork a few times so it cooks evenly.

Pumpkin Pie Filling:

  • 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (more)
  • 1.2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (more)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Beat the above with a mixer for two minutes.

Pour into your *unbaked pie crust. They’ll bake together in the oven.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350. Bake for 50 minutes. Don’t open the over door because the pie will fall, and then you’ll have a crater in the middle.

Let it cool, add whatever decorations you want, and thoroughly enjoy it!

I added some hand-cut leaves from the leftover pie crust. They turned out beautiful, and added a little more crunch to the creamy pumpkin pie.

Recipe box memories – chocolate chip cookies

It started with a cactus. I wanted to find a way to display it, and thought my old Fiesta-ware teapot would make a nice home. Since I filled the pot with a plant, I no longer needed the lid… and my philosophy is ‘hide it away’…

Away it went, into an old recipe box…. already occupied by a memory.

In it, an old letter to my mother from a childhood friend.

Along with an update on life at that moment in time, the letter contains the recipe for the best chocolate cookies I have ever hand, hands down. They’re perfectly soft, chocolatey, gooey, with enough texture to be exciting but not enough to detract from the simplicity of a chocolate chip cookie.

The find wasn’t just the recipe… it’s the flood of memories that came back. Cooking with my mother in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. Making tiny doll-sized cookies so my Barbies could have a tea party (all so I could eat more than just one!) The last memory I have of this recipe from my childhood was desperately searching for it one summer afternoon. I never found it. Funny how things show up years later, in the strangest places.

Chocolate chip cookies

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 c. softened butter
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix (this is the secret!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the above together.
Then add the following to the mixture:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal (optional)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

At this point, you can chill the dough to make it a little harder, or you can grease a cookie sheet, spoon those babies out, and pop ‘em into the oven.

Bake at 350 for about 8 to 10 minutes, then revel in the delight that is a warm, homemade chocolate chip cookie.