Very Berry Bruschetta

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Once I tell someone that I’m a food blogger and that I love to cook I’m inevitably asked “so, what’s your signature dish?”  This is definitely a valid question and I love that people are interested enough to ask it but, truth be known, I really don’t feel like I have one.  I mean, am I an expert at just one dish?  Do I have one particular dish that I love to make and go to time after time?  Hmmmmm, not really.  It’s honestly a question I dread and have really contemplated just making something up!

All that being said I do think that one of my favorite things to make, if not my most favorite is bruchettas or crostinis.  I have become quite known for them and I serve a different one at each gathering I host.  I don’t believe there’s a more versatile or popular appetizer.  It falls into my #1 guideline that an appetizer has to be a “finger food” and it is probably the most versatile and creative appetizer you can serve.  The ingredients are endless and you can fit those ingredients beautifully into any season or holiday.

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I made this berry bruschetta for a Fourth of July party and I have to say, it was a major hit!  So much so that I’ve been asked to make it regularly this summer.  It came to me because of the colors (red, white and blue) and the fresh in season ingredients (strawberries, blueberries and fresh mint).

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Very Berry Bruschetta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 French baguette loaf - sliced into rounds (approximately ½" thick)
  • 1 tub of honey nut flavored cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or coconut sugar which is what I use)
  • 1 quart of strawberries - chopped
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • bunch of fresh mint - chopped
  • honey for drizzling
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the bread rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the bread rounds and sprinkle them with Kosher salt.
  4. Bake the bread rounds in the oven for approximately 6-7 minutes until slightly browned and a bit hardened.
  5. Let the bread cool slightly until cool enough to handle.
  6. Mix the berries and the sugar together in a medium bowl. Allow them to sit for a few minutes.
  7. Spread each bread round with the cream cheese.
  8. Spoon the berry mixture onto the bread rounds.
  9. Drizzle the honey over the tops of the bread rounds.
  10. Sprinkle the chopped mint over the tops of the bread rounds for garnish.

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Holiday Cake Batter Truffles…..and they’re no bake!

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“Step away from the desserts.”  These are the words I keep screaming to myself this entire holiday season…..so far it’s not working.  I’m not a sweet eater, my nemesis is crunchy and salty snacks i.e. the pretzel, one of the truly most perfect foods in the universe. But, these cake batter truffles are truly a decadent delight.  As you know by now, I’m not a baker.  These little balls of happiness are easy to make and require absolutely no baking!!  Think of the possibilities for them with different colored sprinkles and coatings for Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July and birthday cake varieties.

There are hundreds of different recipes for these little treats but this is the one that works best for me.  I do not have a KitchenAid Mixer so I use a combination of my hand mixer and my own two hands to get the dough to come together.  It works just great every time.

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I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.  I’m down to only two left from Christmas so I’m almost out of the woods!  I’m working under the premise that they’re small and therefore not that many calories per truffle.  Do I have you convinced yet?

Holiday Cake Batter Truffles
 
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Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter at room temperature
  • 1½ cups yellow cake mix (or white cake mix) - I used Duncan Hines moist yellow cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 16 oz (8 squares) white chocolate or vanilla candy coating
  • red and green nonpariels (very small round sprinkles)
Instructions
  1. Combine butter, cake mix, sugar, flour and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  2. With a hand mixer and the dough beaters blend on low until the dough begins to come together.
  3. Continue to blend and work the dough with your hands until a firm dough forms and there are no more lumps.
  4. Roll dough into 1½ inch balls.
  5. Place on a large baking sheet covered with wax paper.
  6. Place dough balls in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  7. Melt the white chocolate (or candy coating) in a double boiler until it is silky smooth.
  8. NOTE - I make my own double boiler with a 2 quart saucepan filled up halfway with boiling water and a medium glass bowl on top of the pan.
  9. Dip the dough balls in the melted chocolate by piercing them with a knife or fork.
  10. Return them to wax paper and sprinkle the tops with the red and green nonpareils.
  11. Let the chocolate harden in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  12. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
  13. They do not need to be stored in the refrigerator.

I have tried many times to effectively melt chocolate in the microwave and I just can’t get it right.  The method I use is to create my own double boiler out of a 2 quart saucepan filled up halfway with boiling water and a glass bowl on top of it.  I can’t believe how good the chocolate comes out!  It’s perfectly melted and I never have to thin it to the proper consistency.  It comes out silky smooth and stays melted for a long time.

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Halloween Party Mix

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I need to warn you, this makes a huge batch and you’ll definitely need it as it’s so yummy that you can eat it in one sitting.  I think this would be great to snack on when you’re passing out candy on Halloween night; while listening to your Halloween music playlist of course.  A little Monster Mash anyone?

I have the distinct honor of being a pediatric therapist in my real (non food blogging) life.  I made a batch of this tonight for the kids I see as a special Halloween treat.  I wrapped single serving portions in little cellophane bags tied with Halloween ribbon.  I sure hope they love it!

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Halloween Party Mix
 
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This festive Halloween treat is so yummy it's addictive. I'll warn you, it's easy to polish off an entire batch in one sitting. It would be great to snack on while passing out treats to the kids on Halloween night!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Party Food
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces of white chocolate or vanilla flavored candy coating (plus up to 8 ounces additional if you want the mix heavily coated)
  • 2 cups tiny twist pretzels
  • 1¼ cups Cheerios
  • 1¼ cups Corn Chex
  • 1¼ cups cinnamon flavored wheat chex
  • 1 10 oz bag of candy corn
  • orange and black sprinkles (I used a harvest blend) - use desired amount for color
Instructions
  1. Mix the pretzels, cereals and candy corn in a big bowl or on a large baking sheet (that's what I use as I don't have a big enough bowl).
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave starting with 1 minute then stirring. Repeat heating for 15-20 seconds, stirring after each heating. It is easy to overheat the chocolate which changes its texture. This method works very well.
  3. Drizzle the melted white chocolate over the mixture and stir gently to coat the mixture as evenly as possible.
  4. Transfer to a large baking sheet and add the sprinkles over the top.
  5. Let the mixture cool for 2-3 hours.
  6. Break the mix into pieces with a spatula.
  7. Store in plastic bags or an airtight container.

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Healthy No-Bake Cookie Balls

 

no.bake.cookie.balls1My birthday was this past weekend and my sweet friend Paula brought me some “healthy” yet super scrumptious treats.  These cookie balls are amazing!  The recipe actually calls for chocolate chips but…..I’m allergic to chocolate!  True story and before you respond with the typical “ugh, I’m so sorry for you” response I have to tell you it’s really ok.  I don’t crave it or want it as it makes me sick; literally.  So, Paula substituted butterscotch chips.  My friend, who tried both varieties, actually preferred the butterscotch over the chocolate.  You, of course, can decide for yourself.  And as always, please let me know which you prefer!

Thank you to Paula for coming to my party and bringing such a thoughtful and healthy “cookie.”   Happy Birthday to me!

Healthy No-Bake Cookie Balls
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Healthy Dessert
Cuisine: Dessert
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • ¼ cup coconut oil softened, but not melted
  • 2 Tablespoons raw, organic honey
  • ½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup crushed pretzels
  • ⅓ cup butterscotch chips
  • ½ roasted almond slivers (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients until fully combined.  Form into balls and freeze.  Bring to room temperature to eat.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Grape and Apple Yogurt Parfaits

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Ok, my Mom truly loves dessert, I mean she seriously craves it, so coming up with something healthy and natural to satisfy her sweet tooth is sometimes a challenge.  This one was a home run baby!

Ingredients:

2 cups seedless grapes

1 large apple diced large

2 Tablespoons butter

Kosher salt

Cinnamon

2 small packets of Pure Via sweetener – this is a natural calorie free sweetener that I use once in awhile to satisfy a sweet tooth with zero guilt.

drizzle of Fig Balsamic vinegar – or any other fruit flavored vinegar

Plain Nonfat Yogurt

Directions:

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Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter and add the grapes and apples.  Stir to coat the fruit with the butter, add a sprinkle of Kosher salt.  Sprinkle the fruit liberally with cinnamon (2 teaspoons or so).  Sautee for 5-8 minutes.  Add the sweetener and stir.  Drizzle the mixture with the balsamic vinegar. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the apples are tender but still have a bite to them.  Serve over a cup of yogurt, pouring the juice in the bottom of the pan over the fruit.  Sprinkle with coconut sugar and serve.

YUMMY!

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Balsamic Baked Apples

IMG_0417IMG_0430With the words “Happy New Year” come the frequently uttered words “I need to eat healthier this year” and “I’m starting my diet.”  Well, let’s face it, we are human and therefore we need dessert.  Here’s a low calorie guilt-free dessert that is not only warm, comforting and delicious but also versatile!  Try it over frozen yogurt, plain nonfat yogurt, oatmeal or pancakes.

Ingredients:

3 apples – I used one golden delicious and 2 Fuji apples

ground cinnamon

organic coconut sugar – it’s an unrefined brown sugar with a caramel flavor.  I like the texture of it and it browns the flesh of the apples nicely.  It’s toted to have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar so often it’s deemed as a healthy alternative to sugar.  I personally have not found any research to back up those statements.  I just like the taste and the texture of it.

Fruit flavored balsamic vinegar – I used cinnamon-pear flavor

Walnuts – chopped

Raisins – (optional)  The pancake picture above has raisins.  Regular or golden raisins are both nice in this dish.

Directions:

Cut the apples into 4 sections; cut those 4 sections in half; cut those halves into 3 pieces.

IMG_0412Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray the bottom of a small glass baking dish with cooking spray – I used an 8×8 square

Put apples in pan and generously coat with the balsamic vinegar.  I used enough vinegar to fully coat the apples and cover the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the apples with the coconut sugar and add a generous coat of the ground cinnamon.  Add the walnuts.  Stir to cover the apples with all the ingredients.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes (to desired tenderness).  If you take the foil off for the last 10 minutes of cooking the vinegar will thicken up a bit making it a more syrup-like consistency.

Spoon the apples over the frozen yogurt or whatever you are putting them on and drizzle with the cooking liquid left in the bottom of your baking pan….yummy.

Note- I did not peel the apples but you might want to do this if you don’t like the texture of the cooked skins.

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

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 Pumpkin Season has arrived, woooo hoooo!

So, I really do love all things pumpkins from decorating with the actual gourd itself to the carved up jack-o-lantern lit up for Halloween night.  But, by far, I love eating pumpkin in cupcakes, latte, cake, soup and of course….pumpkin pie.  But, as much as I love the pumpkin pie filling, I equally do not like the crust.  So, I’m always the annoying girl at the table that is (with surgeon precision) scooping out the filling and leaving the empty crust on the plate.  I think I’ve found the answer.  I came across a recipe online for a pumpkin cupcake and adapted it to create individual little pumpkin pie cupcakes with the same consistency as a yummy pumpkin pie but it is, voila, crust-less!  These were a HUGE hit this Thanksgiving season.

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

½ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup evaporated milk

⅔ cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the muffin tin with cooking spray. I did not use liners as I did not want them to stick to the paper.  I used nonstick muffin pans.

Mix the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and milk. Add the flour, pumpkin spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the mixture. Fill each muffin cup with 1/3 cup of the mixture. Bake for twenty minutes and let cool for twenty minutes.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkle more pumpkin pie spice on top to serve. Makes 10-12 cupcakes.  These store in the refrigerator very nicely.

 

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