Copycat White Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake

I tried my hand at making a fancy bundt cake for a friend’s birthday a few weeks back. It turned out amazing, so I just had to share it with you guys.

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I know, it doesn’t look like much, but this white chocolate raspberry cake was fantastic! I started with this recipe, and made a few changes and substitutions.

First of all, instead of the 3.4 oz of white chocolate Jello pudding, I used 1 oz of sugar free white chocolate pudding. It’s all I could find. And to make the batter a bit thicker, I used milk in the cake mix instead of water. We only had skim in the house, but you could use 2%, whole, or even half and half in a pinch.

Watch out for the chocolate chips sold at most stores. They aren’t true white chocolate chips. If you look closely, they say “white morsels.” Do not use these in the cake. They don’t melt correctly, and they’re made of a whole list of chemicals that I can’t even pronounce. I bought Ghiradelli white chocolate baking bars and chopped up the chocolate into very thin pieces, so they would melt evenly while the cake baked. This recipe calls for 1.5 cups of white chocolate chips, which ended up being one and a half 4 ounce white chocolate bars.

Finally, as always, I let the eggs come to room temperature before using them in the batter. I know, it sounds weird, but I swear that whenever I use eggs straight from the fridge, the cake isn’t quite as light as it is when I wait for the eggs to warm.

Be prepared for the cake to take somewhere between 55-60 minutes. I kept checking it after 45 minutes, but it was still liquidy. After 60 minutes, I took the cake out of the oven and let it cool in the bundt pan on a wire rack. once it was completely cooled, I wrapped the whole cake in plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge overnight, right up until I needed to frost it.

This was a huge cake, and not even a piece was left an hour after it was served. I got so many complements, and a few people even asked for the recipe. They said it tasted exactly like a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes which would cost somewhere in the $40-$50 range. I’m definitely going to be saving this recipe to make again.

Taco Tuesday Tostadas

I had other posts plan for this week, but you know. Life happened. We’re still hard at work on renovation plans, and more family room updates are to come (eventually), but I just had to share the recipe for these simple, clean out the fridge tostadas that I made for taco Tuesday last night.

I know, the picture isn’t great. I was so hungry I didn’t want to take the time to actually stage the photo. Instead, I snapped this pic mere seconds before I dug in.

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Ingredients:

For the baked tortillas:

4 corn tortillas

pinch salt

cooking spray

For the toppings:

1 can refried beans

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 roma tomato, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup spinach, chopped

Optional garnishes: cheese, sour cream (or greek yogurt), guacamole, black olives, corn

 

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Put four corn tortillas on the pan, spray each side with more cooking spray, and sprinkle some salt on top. Use a fork to poke each tortilla about four times, which will prevent them from rising. Set aside while the oven gets up to temperature.

Next, pour the refried beans into a pan and heat over a low flame. The beans are cooked, you just want to warm them. Stir every once in a while, to prevent sticking. Meanwhile, start chopping the tomatoes, green onions, and spinach and getting together the other toppings.

Once the oven reaches 400 degrees, cook the tortillas for about 4 minutes, flip them, then cook for 4 minutes more. Depending on your oven, you may need a bit more time. Once the tortillas were nice and crispy, I removed them from the oven and kept them warm until I was ready to serve the tostadas.

I always create a build-your-own bar when making these, but if you wanted to assemble them for others, I’d suggest topping the tortilla with the refried beans, then the rice (smashing down the rice a bit so it sticks in the beans), the spinach, the tomatoes, then all the optional, use whatever you have toppings like the cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Two were all I needed to fill my belly. We did have some beans and rice left over, so Dan mixed them together and we ate it as a dip with some tortilla chips we had.

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Braised Short Ribs with Polenta

Dan and I were lucky enough to get a new dutch oven for Christmas. I was eager to try it out with a hearty meat dish, so I decided to make braised short ribs, to be served with cheddar polenta.

Dan found this recipe, which we used as our base. It came out amazing – the perfect dinner on a cold winter day.

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We looked at many recipes that didn’t have gremolata (parsley, lemon, and garlic), but I think it really helped make the dish. Don’t skip it.

Even though this dish took a lot of time to cook, it didn’t take a lot of time to prep. After cooking the ribs on each side, sauteeing the onion, and bringing the wine to a boil, the dish goes in the over for 1.5 hours, so it’s completely hands off.

I will caution you when the meat has been removed, and you’re boiling down the liquid into the sauce. It’s slow going to boil away, but then once it boils, it boils quickly. I almost boiled away too much of the liquid during that phase of cooking.

The polenta doesn’t take long to make, so make it right before serving. Watch out – it gets cold quickly. Growing up, we never put cheese in our polenta. I was missing out! We used cheddar in the polenta, even though the recipe calls for Parmesan. Use whatever you have on hand. I could even see goat cheese working really well.

This recipe will certainly make it into the rotation for our Sunday dinners, when we have a little more time than a typical weeknight to make a really delicious  gourmet-y meal.

We’re hoping to keep up our fancy weekend dinner on a semi-regular basis, so I just may have more recipes for you soon.

Boozy Winter Wassail

Dan made me a warm winter drink the other night, and it was so good I just had to share it. I call it boozy wassail.

It truly tastes like winter in a cup. I can’t think of anything cozier than curling up with a cup of winter wassail in my comfy chair, covering myself with a knit throw, and reading a favorite book.

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Ingredients:

1 part Winter Wassail (from Trader Joe’s)

1 part red wine (go cheap on this – ours is three buck chuck from trader Joe’s as well)

a lemon wedge (juiced into the drink)

Optional – orange wedge, cinnamon sticks

Put everything in a pot and heat until warm, being careful not to let the liquid boil. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes to really let the flavors mix together. Serve immediately, piping hot.

Dan has also made this drink using honey whiskey as a replacement for the red wine. Both ways are great.

Hurry if you want to try our wassail. It’s a seasonal item from Trader Joe’s, so it won’t be in stores much longer.

Hope this helps keep you warm this winter!

Sweet Potato Latkes – A Christmas Tradition

Do you have any odd Christmas traditions?

Dan and I do. We make ourselves latkes for Christmas Eve Eve dinner.

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No, neither of us are Jewish, and we didn’t have latkes growing up. We think the tradition started when we went to Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago the year we were first married, and feasted on some amazing potato pancakes. We decided to make latkes ourselves that Dec 23rd, simply because we were both off that day and thought it would be a fun dinner to try. The tradition stuck, and we look forward to it as part of our yearly Christmas activities.

We’ve tried a few different recipes over the last five years, and this year we went in a new direction – using sweet potatoes. I saw this recipe on the skinnytaste website and we decided to give it a whirl.

We doubled the recipe and got 4 huge latkes (it was easier to make bigger ones because of the longer sweet potato sticks). We don’t have a heavy duty spiralizer, so we used our mandoline, which cut the sweet potato into long matchsticks. I think the potato was too thick because the egg didn’t quite bind the latke together like I thought it would. Instead, the egg kind of scrambles in between the sweet potato sticks. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. The search for a latke recipe continues!

Well, this bring my Christmas week posts to an end. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my Christmas preparations/baking/traditions with you. I’ll be back to regularly scheduled blog programming next week.

I truly hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas Eve Orange Cranberry Scones

We spend Christmas Eve with Dan’s family, and we start the day early. Since our big meal isn’t until 2pm, we usually have some breakfast goodies on hand. This year, I made these orange cranberry scones to share.

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I’ve never made these before, so I hope they’re good today! I thought the fresh cranberries added a nice holiday touch, so I decided to go this route instead of the mini chocolate chip or craisin scones I usually make.

I followed the recipe exactly, but I wish I had used orange juice or at least more orange zest in the glaze. Oh well, next time!

They’ll pair well with the morning mimosas we’re enjoying to get into the holiday spirit.

Mini Gingerbread Loaf Neighbor Gifts

I love this gingerbread loaf. I first made it for last year’s Wreath Decorating Party as a last minute snack idea, and I’ve made it a ton since then. My mom even bought me a special pan with gingerbread people on it to use every time I make this yummy bread.

Friends always ask for the recipe, and a few have made it on their own with tasty results. So, when I began to think about what to bake our neighbors this year, gingerbread loaves immediately came to mind.

Each loaf took an hour plus to make though (including baking time), and since I only had one pan, I knew this would become quite a process. That’s when I got the idea to make this loaf into minis. They turned out great!

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I doubled the recipe, and it made 8 mini loaves. I had bought 6 ceramic mini loaf pans in an end of the season sale at Michael’s last year, and knew they would be perfect for this. We had to adjust the cooking time, so don’t forget to do that. The recipe calls for 55 minutes. We started checking on the loaves at 25 minutes, sticking a toothpick in each loaf to see if it was done. They probably spent about 35 minutes in the oven total.

Once the loaves cooled completely, we sprinkled them with powdered sugar, which really adds something to the otherwise spicier dessert.

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Then, we wrapped them in cling wrap, packaged them in Christmas favor bags, and added a tag (find it here – and it’s customizable!) with some curly ribbon.

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It’s a small, simple gift, but the packaging makes it look fancy! I really hope the neighbors like this treat as much as I do.

 

Glazed Eggnog Cake

Woohoo – it’s Christmas week! Get ready for a special week – daily posts about all things Christmas!

I thought I’d start off with a tasty holiday cake that is much easier to make than it looks – eggnog bundt cake!

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I tried out this recipe a couple weeks ago for my mom’s birthday. She loves eggnog, so I thought of her the second I saw this cake.

Bundt cakes are pretty easy, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for prep or decorating a dessert. You just mix everything together, pour it into a pan, and let it bake. Plus, the pan’s shape makes the cake pretty on its own. The only thing left for you to do is make the glaze and pour it on top!

I was really pleased with the way the cake turned out. It was very eggnogy and super moist. My only complaint would be that it didn’t rise as much as  I thought it would. Many bundt cakes bake up the pan right to the top, but this cake stopped short. Weird, since I used 4 teaspoons of baking powder in the batter. Still, I’d make this cake again. Maybe for Christmas? I’m still settling on which desserts to make for the two Christmases we attend, and this cake is definitely on the short list.

Mini Eggnog Cheesecakes with Orange Cranberry Topping

Earlier in the week, I posted about the wreath decorating party that I hosted last weekend. I was so excited about sharing how all the wreaths turned out that I didn’t even mention the yummy treats we snacked on while we worked.

I wanted to make food that was easy to eat – in a bite or two – so we wouldn’t have to either stop decorating or wait until we were finished to eat. I came up with two items – a gingerbread loaf and mini cheesecakes. Unfortunately, the gingerbread loaf was cut, served, and eaten before I thought to snap a photo. Darn.

So, I’m going to share my mini cheesecakes.

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So colorful and festive!

I used this recipe as my starting point. I followed the recipe to the T, and the cheesecakes came out delicious. Still, I would change a few things next time.

First of all, the ratio of graham cracker crust to cheesecake seemed a bit off to me. I would use a bit less graham crumbs – probably reducing the total by a quarter of a cup – and maybe a tablespoon or two more butter.

For topping, I skipped the whipped cream and decided to add some color to the dessert by making a quick and easy orange cranberry topping. Just take 4 oz of fresh cranberries and warm them up in a pan with 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup white sugar until the cranberries pop and the mixture is mushy. For extra orange flavor, go ahead and add in some orange zest.

The rich eggnog flavor combined with the sweetness of the cheesecake and the tartness of the cranberry topping makes this quite a treat. Try them out for your next holiday party.

Peanut Chicken with Udon Noodles

I’m always on the look out for a quick, easy dinner. The less prep/hands on time, the better. Last weekend, we had a gorgeous Sunday with highs in the 60s. In November. No one felt like cooking.

I knew we had some udon noodles in the pantry, so I thought making some sort of Asian dish would be easy. We always have frozen chicken around, and I thought we had some peanut butter in the pantry. Peanut chicken it was!

I found this recipe online, and made a couple changes. I substituted plain yogurt for coconut milk and white balsamic vinegar for red wine vinegar. The recipe didn’t say if the chicken should be thawed or if it would work with frozen chicken, so I just added the chicken while it was still frozen and put the sauce on top.

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I cooked on high for 4 hours, shredded the chicken, and added it back to the pot while I cooked the noodles as the package directed (with a bit of sesame oil). We didn’t have any cilantro, so we topped the dish with green onion instead.

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The total time on this couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes or so, not counting all the time in the crockpot. And it was delicious.

There are two things that make me really like this dish. First of all, every ingredient in the recipe is a staple I have on hand (minus the noodles). That’s the second thing – the peanut chicken can be served with a ton of options like rice, any kind of noodle (even spaghetti in a pinch), or even as the filling for lettuce wraps because of its thickness.

Given the ease of the dish, I know we’ll be making this recipe often. We definitely found a new meal to add into the rotation.