Thursday, October 27, 2011

Easy Pumpkin Cookies

Trick or treat...Halloween is almost here. Are you dressing up this year??? I love Halloween but I hate trying to come up with a costume so I rarely do. I always want it to be the perfect one and you know, it just takes to much effort. At this point, I would throw on a mask, paint my face or buy a costume just so I wouldn't have to think about it. Kudos to all of you that create your own costumes.

When I was growing up, my mom always helped us come up with a great costume. One year my brother and I dressed up as an old married couple - I as the husband and my brother as the wife (high heels and everything). We fooled the whole neighborhood. Another year I was a witch and my mom added a big wart to my face made out of a chopped walnut and coconut mixed with peanut butter. It was great. She is the creative one in the family. 

Here's picture of my brother (on the right) and I dressed up as husband and wife almost 30 years ago. 

This time of year and I especially love being able to break out the cans of pumpkin. Pumpkin is so versatile as you can use it in so many things. Soups, cakes, cookies, drinks, muffins, cheesecake, pancakes - the list is endless. Often you can't even tell that there is pumpkin in the dish or baked good, it just makes everything moist and delicious.

I remembered having these cookies at my grandma's house quite a few years back and loved them. I called her the other day and asked her for the recipe. She is not one for writing a recipe down - it's just a little of this and a little of that. The trait of a great cook! Thankfully this one is very simple as you'll see. And just to take them a step further, I added a cream cheese frosting. You certainly don't need to frost them and if you prefer a regular vanilla or chocolate icing, this would be delicious too.

I'm sure many of you are busy with kids and this is the perfect recipe to whip up in no time. Your kids will love them! You could even add chocolate chips to this recipe. I must warn you though...they are addictive just as they are. It's hard to eat just one.

Easy Pumpkin Cookies

1 box Spice Cake Mix
1 15oz can pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature (can use lite)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioner's sugar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add spice cake mix, egg, and the can of pumpkin. Mix until all combined. Drop by rounded tablespoon on to a greased baking sheet. It doesn't hurt to flatten them out a bit as they don't melt much during baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are slightly firm to touch.Frost when cool and sprinkle with nuts if you'd like.

To make the frosting, add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl. Beat until well combined.

I like to keep these cookies in the refrigerator since they are very moist. Enjoy!

Courtesy of my Grandma Baker

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Raspberry Cream Parfait

No my raspberries are not really that bright and beautiful but they do taste that good.

I'm having so much fun with all the new picture editing sites. You can make photos look old, grainy, pop with color...pretty much anything you want.

I took over my husband's new iPhone this past weekend when we went to San Francisco for Fleet Week. Of course I downloaded a bunch of photo apps to play with and as you can see I had a great time taking pictures of big ships and airplanes flying over our heads.

Anyway, back to dessert. Try taking just one bite of this one.

I love mascarpone, cream, raspberries and sugar so I put them all together to form this lovely parfait. With a few bites you get sweet, creamy, a bit of tartness from the raspberries and crunch from a cookie. A perfect bite!

When you create a dessert, the more textures and flavors you can combine together - meaning crunchy, sweet, sour, salty, etc..., the more tantalizing the dessert will be on your taste buds.

This one is rich so if you have some small glasses or even miniature dessert glasses, use them. You only need a few bites to enjoy this dessert. 

You can whip up this up in no time and even make it ahead of time. Strawberries would be really good used here - really any berry. I actually got this idea from a dessert I used to make with strawberries and mascarpone. Mascarpone is so good sweetened and with fruit. It's an Italian cheese similar to cream cheese. You should be able to find it in any grocery store but if not substitute light cream cheese. 

I added a crushed amaretti cookie to the top so that you get a bit of crunchiness. You can use any kind of hard, crunchy cookie.

Raspberry Cream Parfait

3 cups raspberries + a few extras for garnish - frozen or fresh
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute like Ideal
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Chambord (raspberry liquor)or substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 amaretti cookies, crushed
Fresh mint sprigs, garnish (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add 2 cups of raspberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon water (if using frozen berries - if using fresh - 2 tablespoons water). Stir to combine. Let cook until berries break down and mixture thickens about 10-15 minutes, stirring often. Taste to see if raspberries are sweet enough for you - you can add more sugar if you prefer them to be sweeter. Turn off heat and add additional cup of raspberries and stir gently to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, add mascarpone, 1/4 cup sugar, and liquor. Mix well. In another bowl, whip heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold cream into the cheese mixture.

In dessert glasses, add a large heaping tablespoon of raspberries. Add a heaping tablespoon of the cream mixture. Add another heaping tablespoon of the raspberries. This part is really up to you as to how many layers you want. Depending on how big your dessert glasses are you'll have to adjust accordingly. The goal is to layer each so you get both in a single bite - and it really looks pretty especially with a fresh raspberry on top and a sprig of mint.  Serves 6-8.