Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Caramel. Apples. Cheesecake. That’s pretty much a trifecta of awesomeness, wouldn’t you say? These bars are also awesome because they’re so darned easy to make! A classic graham cracker crust, a simple cheesecake batter, and a can of apple pie filling are the base for this dessert. Then it’s topped with a luxurious caramel sauce and topped with flecks of sea salt.

Which let me just say that the salt really made it. I used fleur-de-sel…the creme de la creme of sea salt. It’s best when used as a finishing touch, and it really was perfect here. But any finely milled sea salt would be just fine. The slight salty crunch on top of the bars was absolutely delicious! I also used my homemade caramel sauce that I always have tucked in the fridge. If you’ve never made it, or been intimidated by making caramel – don’t be! I used to be that way, but after seeing how easy it is and how delicious the results are – you’ll kick yourself for not trying it sooner. And, the sauce is much less temperamental than the soft candies that you eat, so it’s a great place to start!

The husband still talks about these bars, so I know I’ll have to be making them again soon. I was so happy with how they turned out and how beautiful they looked – how the apples are suspended perfectly in the cheesecake? I was worried they’d sink – but they didn’t. I used Lucky Leaf pie filling, which is always my go-to choice when using a pie filling – just because I know it’s always high quality ingredients. The apple filling wasn’t too wet, which I think really helped to get the consistency that made these bars turn out so perfect!

What are you guys up to this weekend? After two more snow days earlier this week, I’m ready for some warmer weather. We’re looking forward to a trip to the Ocean City to check out the Spring Trade Expo put on by the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association – aka “the food show”. It’s a  chance to sample all kinds of different goodies. I know Jon is looking forward to checking out some of the new breweries in the region, and sampling their products. I think some Thrasher;s and lunch at The Shark are also going to have to be on the menu. Should be a good time! I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Source: adapted from Lucky Leaf

Paczki

For me, Heaven on Earth is frying a ball of dough and then stuffing it with pastry cream. So I naturally fell in love with these traditional Polish doughnuts when I came across them on Nikki’s site a couple of years ago. They’re often made around Lent, to use up all the rich things hanging around the house – stuff like butter or lard, sugar, and eggs.

I wanted to make them for Fat Tuesday last year, but never got around to it. This year I did, and I know that it will be a tradition from here on out in our house. The dough is tender, yet denser than a traditional doughnut. A bit of vodka is added to the dough, which evaporates during cooking, but prevents too much oil from being absorbed into the dough during frying. They’re then filled with a rich pastry cream or fruit filling, and dusted with a bit of powdered sugar before serving.

They’re best eaten the day that they’re made, so don’t dilly-dally in enjoying them. Take some into work to share with your co-workers, or to a Mardi Gras party. Just don’t let them go to waste! This recipe makes about 25 doughnuts, which is plenty to enjoy and plenty to spread the love too. A great weekend project!

Source: adapted from Epicurious and All Recipes via Seeded At The Table


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago I woke up on a Saturday morning, and wanted to bake something to take to our local homebrew store to share with our buddies there. They are always so informative and helpful, and I’m always promising them some goody the next time I come in – and then never deliver. That needed to end. So, I took my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and had a little bit of fun with it the morning before we left.

The only thing I really changed was adding a bit of peanut butter to the frosting. Then topped with some chopped peanuts for a garnish. Yowza – talk about a good cupcake! The cake is tender and moist, but the frosting – the frosting is where it’s at. Rich and decadent, but with a salty kick from the peanut butter. And the peanuts resting on top were just the perfect crunch to set the whole thing off.

The guys at the brew shop of course loved them, even Jon who’s really trying to watch his weight for the “Biggest Loser” competition at work (the guys been eating Greek yogurt for lunch everyday – talk about committed!) even broke down and ate one. And I pretty much ate the rest. One for me…three for baby.

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake

By this time of year, I’m ready for spring to come. However there’s one thing that I look forward to…the arrival of all kinds of delicious and exotic citrus in the stores. Things like meyer lemons, sweet Cara Caras, plump Tangelos, and of course blood oranges. With their mottled color orange and red skin, along with the deep red colored flesh…they make for such a special treat that I can never pass up when I come across them in the store.

My favorite thing to do with them is usually make margaritas, but since that’s out for me this season I’ve had to turn to other things. I’m freezing some juice, by the way, so that I can enjoy some of those delicious cocktails come summertime! I’ll probably need a margarita or two with 3 little boys to to look after…Ahhh, fun times ahead.

Anyways, this cake. Yogurt cakes are one of my favorite baked goods on the planet. So much moisture and they love to take on the flavor of whatever fruit you want to throw into them. Case in point – blood oranges. The cake itself is studded with plenty of fresh zest and juice, and then topped with a gorgeous glaze simply made from some confectioner’s sugar and a bit of additional juice from the orange. Can you believe that color? So gorgeous.

I topped with candied orange slices for a garnish that is almost too pretty to eat. Almost. So, if you’ve seen these funny looking oranges in the store, but weren’t quite sure what to do with them – this easy cake is a great place to start. It’s wonderful for dessert, or a slice with your tea or coffee in the morning, or even for a fancy brunch…t’s sure to please everyone.

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake

Source: cake adapted from Picky Cook, glaze and candied oranges from Annie’s Eats