Friday, December 30, 2011

Tiramisu Cheesecake Bars

Raise your hand if you like Tiramisu.

My friend Kylee loves Tiramisu. In fact, she's probably staring at her computer screen, waving both hands in the air and shouting, "Me! Me! I do! Me!"

Sigh. I miss my Kylee, who now resides in Indiana, and who I have not seen since her wedding in August. Being adults suck....with our crazy-busy lives. I miss the days when I used to lounge around watching FRIENDS, sharing a plate of tortilla chips smothered in cheese and Red Hot with Ky and Jess. (I wrote about Jess over here.) Ahhh, those were the days. Our only concerns were tomorrow's exams and the ridiculous line at Rosie's <--- which had the best baked potatoes and Philly sandwiches in Kent.

While I was making these Tiramisu Cheesecake Bars for my work's Christmas party a few weeks ago, I thought of Kylee and how she'd be here demanding to lick the spoon. But since she wasn't, someone had to do it. I gladly took that job. And it was de-licious.

And so were these bars. The hazelnut-flavored coffee was perfect-O. The sugar cookie crust had a nice crunch and the cheesecake layer was perfectly creamy. The whole bar had a melt-in-your-mouth kind of feeling. Yum.

So here's a little step-by-step photo shoot of these delectable little squares.

First, you prepare the cookie dough and bake it off until golden. And then let it cool a bit.

Then pour on the creamy cheesecake layer. Bake that for a little over a half an hour; cool and chill for an hour.

Meanwhile, whip up this amazing, fluffy topping that consists of more cream cheese and chocolate decorations to make it look fabulous. And then chill some more, which is definitely the hardest part any time cheesecake anything is involved.

The best thing about bars: You don't have to serve them in the dish you baked them in, or as a whole (unlike cake). They're much prettier on a platter, which means no one has to know you already tried one...or two.

Tiramisu Cheesecake Bars
*adapted from Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookies

Yields 36 bars

1 pouch sugar cookie mix
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 c butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten + 2 eggs
2 pkgs (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp instant hazelnut-flavored coffee granules (or whatever you can find)
2 tsp vanilla
1 c mini semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven 350 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 13x9" pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix with flour, butter and slightly beaten egg until soft dough forms. Press dough into bottom of pan. Bake 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add condensed milk; beat until well blended. Add coffee, vanilla and 2 eggs; beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over cookie base. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool at room temp for 30 minutes. Refrigerate 30 minutes to cool completely.

6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c whipping cream
Chocolate shards, pieces, sprinkles, curls, etc. for garnish (it makes it look pretty)

While chilling, in small bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in whipping cream; beat about 2 minutes longer or until fluffy. Spread mixture over cooled bars. Garnish with chocolate. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Store covered in refrigerator.

Nutritional Information
Per serving: Calories 210; Total Fat 13; Protein 3

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm Reading

Well I started a book club by accident, but I'm super excited. When I first started working as a Writing Assistant at Stark State, I mentioned a book club idea among a few co-workers. Many were excited and a book was selected (Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence to be exact). But when the first meeting came, everyone cancelled.

Fast forward two years.

Since I finally finished my Master's degree, I have the time to read and to read what I want. I remember my friend Jessica telling me how I should read The Secret Garden. I never read it as a child, nor did I ever see any movie version. When I was skimming for free downloads on my Kindle, (appropriately named Brindle; I tell you what, I'm a genius), I came across the title, downloaded it and dived into the story. I was talking about it at work one day, and a co-worker mentioned she'd like to read it. I told her how I wanted to start a book club, how I tried before without success, and before I knew it I had. There are six of us reading this for December's read, and our discussion meeting is tomorrow.

I've really enjoyed this book, and I'm sad I didn't read it as a child. I think I would have enjoyed it immensely. I now feel deprived.

Has anyone read it, and what are your thoughts on The Secret Garden?

While I was working my practicum at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, one of the other practicum students there told me about this great web site, Good Reads. It's completely free to create a profile, and it's a place where you can log your current reading list, as well as any book you've ever read. Once a member, you can find friends and see what they're reading, rate and review books, take quizzes, document your progress, and so much more.

With one click of the mouse, I was ADDICTED! I spent two whole shifts at work, during my downtime, skimming this site and adding my gigantic list of books. I love it. I also got two of my friends hooked on Good Reads as well.

One of my favorite features on the site is the Book Club option. This feature allows you to join whatever and however many online book clubs through Good Reads. You can find local clubs, too. Well, I have a long list of classics I wish to read but I never know where to start. So one day, while on Good Reads, I did a search for literature and I stumbled across the "Ladies and Literature" book club. The club gives a brief bio on what it's about and lists upcoming books to read, along with a suggested start and finish date. Each club usually has about two book options going at once. For December/January this club suggested Jane Eyre and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I've already read Bronte's, and the other title was so intriguing, I couldn't wait to pick it up from my library.

I have not been able to put this book down. The story is written through a series of letters from one character to another, and is set right after WWII. I've been captured from the very first page, and it's as if the characters have come alive and are a part of my world. LOVE. It's written beaautifully, and has brought a few tears.

I've been so engrossed in this book that I completely forgot about The Secret Garden, which I need to finish before tomorrow's meeting....

And on that note, I'm going to go. BUT, please read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; you won't be disappointed.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Festivities

I pray everyone had a blessed Christmas holiday. I had the most wonderful time visiting with family and friends, and was so thrilled to see my brother (!)...he flew in from South Carolina and spent a week with us. Sadly, the only thing missing was the snow.

Our Christmas festivities started with our church's Christmas Eve service, where there was a string quartet playing Christmas carols, face-painting for the kids, and dozens of Christmas cookies that members of the congregation volunteered to bake. Of course, I volunteered because I just didn't have enough cookies on my plate already.

I sent the church five dozen Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Frosting. These cookies have been in my family for years because they're my Grandma Barb's cut-outs. These cookies are the softest sugar cookie in the world, and the key is the cream cheese in the dough. Grandma Barb makes these cut-outs for every family holiday/gathering, but I only make them for Christmas.

I hope the kiddies enjoyed them.

Mr. B's family had Christmas this year, and after the church service we went over to his Grandma's house to visit. Then we came home and opened our gifts at midnight. The midnight tradition has been in my family for years. Ever since my brother and I were in 7th and 8th grade, our parents allowed us to open our gifts at midnight. We'd be at our grandparents for Christmas Eve and wouldn't get home until almost midnight. Since we were up, why not open our gifts?

It started with our stockings, then stockings + one gift, and eventually all of the gifts. This was brilliant because we could sleep in as late as we wanted Christmas morning....and then partake in our mimosas, of course. My husband and I have adopted this tradition, and plan to do so until we have children of our own who are eager for Santa and Christmas morning.

I have to share: My wonderful and loving husband bought me this for Christmas!

Pioneer Woman Cooks! You can imagine I was super.excited. Now, I can't wait until her new one comes out.....

Here's a few snapshots of my Christmas festivities!

Started Christmas morning off right with Single-Serve Monkey Bread. This is definitely a new tradition. Good thing Mr. B woke up when he did; I almost ate the entire pan....grant it I did halve the recipe.
My parents' beautiful tree.

Craft I made for my brother. Since he can't take home a lot of gifts on the plane, I made him a coupon book so I can send him gifts and the things he needs throughout the year.
The homemade apple butter I gave as gifts this year.

Craft I made for the girls in Cooking Club.

My Lemon Bread made the cookie plates a little more interesting.
Strawberry Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting. Check out this recipe here.

The "Skinny" Peanut Butter Cookie light and fluffy.

I almost accomplished everything on my baking list this year. I never had time to get around to the scones because Jess and I were tuckered. And every time I bought the clementines in an attempt to dip them in chocolate, I was eating them faster than my brain could think, Ooh, I wanted to dip these in chocolate!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!!!!!!!

I'll leave you with this season 's Christmas song obsession: Michael Buble <3

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Baking with Jessica

It's the holiday season and that means a lot of baking.

Although I start my baking right after Thanksgiving [in case you don't know, my cookie list is always a mile looooong ---> check it out over here], I always make time for baking with my best friend Jessica. To say is an understatment. And this, my friends, was our 5th "Annual Baking Extravaganza!" (Usually our friend Kylee joins us in our annual baking day, but Kyboo is in Indiana this year with her new hubby....and we missed you!!!)

Every year we get together and make as many cookies as we can fit into one day before we get bored and end up kicking ourselves because we just had to make so many cookies in the first place.

And guess what? This year was no different. Honestly, I don't think we'll ever learn. But, hey, where's the fun in that?

To start off our "Baking Extravaganza," Jess bought us Starbucks!!! And I tried the new Caramel Brulee good.

Now that we have our beverages, it's baking time.

Getting back to business......

This is Jessica in her cute apron that her mother-in-law made her. I need to find material so Karen can make me one, too. STAT. I'm thinking various blues to match my kitchen's blueberry theme.....

Anyhoo, Jess and I decided to make our Browned Butter Cookies (the original recipe always makes way too much frosting so we have to double the dough, which means we always make these cookies around Christmas), Lemon Drops (cookie dough Jess bought from a fundraiser), my infamous Lavender cookies (Jess actually introduced me to this recipe...but I make these darling cookies perfectly), Shortbread cookies (Jess loves these) and Apricot Pinwheels (I made a batch last week but had some jam leftover). I also planned to make scones, which we never got to...because we're quitters. (Actually, we just ran out of energy and day time, literally.)

However, when Jess and I get together, it's not baking without a few catastrophes.

Catastrophe #1 came when Jessica accidentally dropped the measuring cup into the spinning KitchenAid. Thankfully the cup was plastic, and the KitchenAid destroyed that sucker instead of the other way around. That would have been a KitchenAid murder. So when the cup fell in, the flour flew out showering her nearby laptop (which was sitting on the counter because the recipe was online).

Death by KitchenAid.

I think it's time to bring out the wine.

Why, thank you, Jess.

In all of this chaos, we completely forgot about lunch. Around 2 'o clock we were hangry. Good thing I brought up my delicious, heart-warming Potato, Broccoli and Coriander Soup. (You can check out this Cooking Club recipe here.) And Jess threw in some leftover baked sweet potatoes. Yes, we could live on potatoes, and we did in college....Jess and I consumed a lot of potatoes. I think this soup will become a part of our "Annual Baking Extravaganza."


Once our bellies were full, we were back in the game. Next up: rolling out the shortbread dough. Jess and I groaned at the idea of frosting millions of tiny Shortbreads, so we came up with a genius plan. Color the dough! We cut the dough into thirds and colored them blue, green and red. No frosting required.....GENIUS!

Around 5 pm we had to put our baking on hold and pick up Jessica's little man from daycare. Love this little boy! He just turned one last week. Once we got him home, we made dinner. Myles was hangry. haha

Mmmm, peas, couscous and chickpeas (I think). Look at him growing up and feeding himself. I can't believe how big he is!

Our dinner also consisted of couscous and peas. So simple, yet so gosh darn delicious. [Ignore my hunk pat of butter. Once the baby got his, we needed to season ours.]

After, it was back to the cookies.

Enter Catastrophe #2.

These shortbread cookies refused to come off the pans, resulting in this beautiful Christmas crumble mess of blues, greens and reds. Jess was snacking on the bigger crumbs, and I thought they would taste great on ice cream. 1) Too bad Jess didn't have any ice cream; 2) Two people making a billion cookies really don't need ice cream; and 3) Had there been ice cream, I still would have been all over that.

Yes, we were defiitely losing energy and interest by this point. Shoot, it was gone well before we picked up Myles. Probably once the wine was brought out.

Enter Catasrophe #3.

As I was "pinwheeling" the apricot jam, this being our third pan of these mouth-watering cookies, I hear a huge crash in the dining room.


Short pause.

"Brindi, you are going to kill me."

I walked into the room to find a huge pile of our delicate Apricot Pinwheels in a crumbled mess on the floor. All I could do was laugh and complain that if she was just going to throw them on the floor I wouldn't waste my time making them so pretty as Jessica swept up our mess while we ate salvaged what we could.

Twelve (12!) hours later we finally cleaned up the disaster we created in the kitchen and packaged our cookies.

Ugghh....I don't want to see another cookie until next holiday season.
Merry Christmas!

**And on a side note, this week has been so busy that I made it a point to focus only on yoga 60 mintues each day for my December 60-Challenge this week.

Browned Butter Cookies with Caramel Frosting
*adapted from Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookies

Yields 4 dozen cookies (or more if doubling batter)

1/2 c butter
1 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven 375 degrees. In heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter is light brown; pour into large bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, milk, vanilla and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2" apart. Bake 8 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in center. Cool 1-2 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks, about 30 minutes.

1/2 c butter
1 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c powdered sugar

While cookies are cooling, in same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes. Gradually stir in powdered sugar. Spread about 1 tbsp frosting on each cookie.

Have a very blessed Christmas Eve.

Christ the Lord is why we celebrate this wonderful holiday. People tend to forget that as they bustle about buying gifts and baking up a storm. Please take time today to reflect on our Savior and his sacrifice, which brought our salvation. The following are a few of my favorite Christmas Eve Scriptures.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."      --Isaiah 9:6

"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this Child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."       --Luke 2:15-20

"For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds."       --Titus 2: 11-14

"When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."     --Titus 3: 4-7

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cooking Club #17 {Updated}

[Original post date Nov. 2011. --Updated 9/17/14: original, but separate, content, with updated photos and/or more details, if available.

I thought, with Thanksgiving next Thursday, now would be the perfect time for this post's update. Enjoy.]

It's that time again, [and I'm finally caught up with the posts!] and this month's theme left the menu wide open. However, with it being the holidays and all, everyone seemed rather busy, resulting in a smaller group this meeting.

December: Holiday Leftovers

The Menu:
          Main Course
Day-After Breakfast Hash
Chantilly Potatoes
Double Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

While eating Thanksgiving dinner, my mind was brilliantly coming up with possible recipe ideas using the classic holiday dishes. You have potatoes, cranberries, turkey, ham, stuffing, green bean casserole, pumpkin and apple pie......and the list goes on. However, my brain stuck with the apple pie. I kept thinking about all of the apple pieces that always escaped the crust and laid in a pool of sweet liquid on the bottom of the dish. Then my brain went to breakfast, because we all know that is the best meal of the day, right? No. Well, it's my favorite meal of the day. Just think of all the possibilities!

Anyhoo, leftover apple pie filling and breakfast.....

I thought a mini apple roll would be just perfect for when I wake up at 2 pm the day after because I was out gallivanting around, snatching up all the Black Friday deals I could, and falling into bed around 7 am while fighting Mr. B for the covers because he's grumpy because I kept him out until 7 am gallivanting around, snatching up all the Black Friday deals I could. Yeah, an apple roll would be perfect.

And then I found this: Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Hash. And my world changed. Apple what? (However, I think I will attempt that at a later date, for it sounds fabulous I know.)

The idea of potato pancakes, stuffing and eggs in one big skillet sounded ah-mazingly delicious, and I knew this was THE "Holiday Leftovers" dish for me. Just check out that goodness......

Since this dish needed to be made right before we sat down to eat, Jessica decided to start the dough for her cookies, which were pleasantly surprising by the way. I was a bit nervous when I found out she was using candy canes as her "Holiday Leftovers." See, I'm not a fan of mint, and as my eyes grew bigger with each mint ingredient she continued to add to the chocolate cookie dough, I kept telling myself, "You only have to take one bite; it'll be OK. Chill, grin and swallow." So when I braced myself at the end of our meal, I was baffled. There was just the tiniest hint of mint, and it was refreshing and good, and I ate like three.

And then I took some home to add to my holiday cookie platters.

But while her dough was chilling, we decided to have tea time and exchange gifts. This was Jessica's tree. She loves adores pink, and has officially declared pink a Christmas color.

Even though I disagree with pink being the new Christmas "color" (I still prefer the classic red and green, myself), her tree was pretty. And to go along with our tea-and-gift time, she assigned us our own mugs....mine was the book one, because I'm now a librarian, sans the librarian job. <---oh, how time changes! ;)

After our exchange, we got back to the task at hand, where Jenny also shared a dish centered on leftover potatoes (two potato dishes.....heaven), which included cream, cheese and ham. Ugh, so good. Mr. B even gobbled up these leftovers.

Alas, this Cooking Club menu was the best ever, and I could not choose a favorite.

However, I think my breakfast hash will be a new "day after" tradition. Head on over to How Sweet It Is for the Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Hash recipe.

*I hope you enjoyed these Cooking Club snippets. I hope these themes, and even Cooking Club itself, inspire you to gather with your friends and family in the kitchen, and make sweet moments (and delicious food) of your own.

**I've only included the recipes to the dishes I made. Only because I'm unsure of where everyone got theirs...and hey, we gotta give credit where credit is due. If you have any questions about the other dishes, I'll ask the other members where they got their recipes and pass it along!

Until next time.... [Unfortunately, this was our last Cooking Club...]

Check out our previous meetings!
Cooking Club #1-4
Cooking Club #5-8
Cooking Club #9-12
Cooking Club #13-15
Cooking Club #16

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Sweets

Every other Sunday I post a blog sharing my favorite finds from around the Internet and my current obsessions.


First....I have to share this picture of Siamese. I took it this morning when I got up around 8 am.

She does not look happy. Apparently Mr. B has been up since 5:30 am, which has cut into her beauty sleep.

Oh, and I woke up to this!

It's Bea-utiful! Last year at this time we were knee deep in the middle of our first blizzard, but this is all the snow I've seen so far this season. I want more! If it isn't a white Christmas, then it's a Christmas failure. You can bet I'll be wearing my PJs backwards, flushing ice down the toilet, sending up an extra snow prayer, and sleeping with a spoon under my pillow....? (I don't know; that's what I was told...crazy, but I'm on it if it'll bring snow!)

OK, now on to the Sweets....

What I Had For Breakfast Today: My homemade apple butter on toast with coffee. I finally got around to making my apple butter to give to friends and family this season. And, of course, I kept some tasty goodness for myself.

Best Entertaining Idea: Because of my love for all things Starbucks, I LOVE this invitation idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it. This would be great for my book club meetings!

Daily Smile: Trust me, if I could open up a bakery and coffee shop...I would in a heartbeat.

Love For My Future Home: Love the idea of having a place to sit down when putting on shoes. But not a fan of all white, which is just inviting dirt that I'd have to spend my precious blogging time cleaning.

Favorite Mouth-Watering Dish: I'm obsessed with grilled cheese, and one of my favorites is apple slices and Munster. But this looks delish...Bacon, Pear and Raspberry.

Favorite Fashion Find: If I could afford a collection of winter coats, I'd be in heaven. It would be like coffee mugs, wear the one that best fits your mood. (And I adore this color.)

Favorite Craft Idea: Cute way to hang Christmas cards. Will be doing this next year!

Favorite Place: Did I mention I love winter? (This looks like a snapshot from a horse and carriage on the way to Grandma's house...if Grandma's house looked like this.)

Don't You Just Hate That Fact: #373 When a teacher erases the entire blackboard but misses one prominent chalk mark. (Do kids these days even know what chalk is?)

Currently Reading: One of my favorite books; I read it every Christmas.

Favorite New Fitness Routine: Everyone has four minutes.

Favorite Photography Find: Love all of the colors!

Favorite Must-Make-Soon Dessert: This looks too gorgeous to eat. I couldn't find a recipe in my non-existent search attempt, so I will be re-creating this as soon as blackberries are in season!

Best Helpful Tip: Yes, this works. And it's Awesome. If you place a wooden spoon on top, it won't boil over.

Best Day Brightener: We are always in the presence of God.... There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes.  -- Max Lucado

I hope you enjoyed this Sunday's favorite finds.

Was there something you came across this week and just have to share?

Check out my other Sunday Sweets!
Sunday Sweets #1
Sunday Sweets #2

And to keep up with my December 60 Challenge...what this past week looked like:

Monday: 60 minutes vinyasa yoga
Tuesday: 60 minutes vinyasa yoga
Wednesday: 30 minutes vinyasa yoga
                     30 minutes cardio routine
Thursday: 30 minutes vinyasa yoga
                 30 minutes weight training, arms
Friday: 30 minutes vinyasa yoga
             30 minutes cardio routine
Saturday: 30 minutes vinyasa yoga
                30 minutes weight training, arms
Sunday: 30 minutes vinyasa yoga
              30 minutes cardio routine

With Love and God Bless,