Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

 The first time I made these wraps, was during the College Football National Championship game, along with out  favorite bean dip, black bean salsa, and muddy buddies (to offset the salty).  Verdict was: Everyone loved them!

Since then I have made them a few more times and it gets the same rave reviews. They are a light but filling dinner or lunch idea that is pretty quick, other than the time it takes to cook the chicken.  One of the things I loved about this recipe was that you wilt romaine lettuce in a pan on the stove to add to the wraps.  It was just like a restaurant does.  Oh and at first when you taste the sauce by itself you may be wondering if there is something missing.  There isn't.  When it combines with the chicken, lettuce and wraps, it tastes just right!

For this recipe, I used my grill pan that I had gotten at Marshalls for super cheap. This was the very first meal I used it with and I LOVED IT!  It did take a little longer to cook, but the result was tender, juicy and flavorful chicken.  It was awesome!  But even if you don't have a grill pan, just cook the chicken in a skillet instead.

We used Spinach Wraps, but you could use any kind you like and I am sure it will taste just as good.
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps
Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise (low fat)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1/8 tsp salt
2 small romaine hearts
1/3 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
4 8-9 inch spinach wraps, warmed

Preparation
Preheat grill or skillet to medium-high
Combine lemon juice, oil, mayonnaise, garlic and pepper in a large bowl, set aside.
Oil the grill.  Sprinkle chicken with salt. Grill chicken until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 165 degrees (about 4-6 minutes per side).  Let rest.  Meanwhile, cut romaine in half lengthwise, leaving root ends in tact. When chicken is finished cooking place romaine on grill rack.  Turn once or twice as needed. When they begin to lightly char or wilt, remove from pan.  2-3 minutes total.  Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.  Cut the root ends off the romain then chop the leaves.  Add the chicken, lettuce and parmesan to dressing; toss until well combined.  Fill each wrap with about 1 ½ cups of salad and roll closed.

Nutrition according to eat well website:
Per serving: 429 calories; 16 g fat (4 g sat, 7 g mono); 69 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 33 g protein; 5 g fiber; 688 mg sodium; 408 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (138% daily value), Folate (28% dv)
Carbohydrate Servings: 2 1/2
Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 vegetable, 3 1/2 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat


Recipe from eating well

Monday, January 26, 2015

Peppermint Patties


I love peppermint patties and have never really thought about making them from scratch (why would I when the store bought version is yummy!) But then for my husbands family's christmas party, we were doing a treat making contest, so I searched out some of my favorite treats and I decided to try this one out.

I thought the taste and texture was great!  I do have to say that the dipping process left something to be desired. I never took them to the party because the roll of peppermint sat in my fridge, unchocolated for weeks! Honestly, I hate dipping things in chocolate (other than oreo bonbons and chocolate chip cookie dough truffles. I found an easy trick with those!)  The entire time I was dipping them, I kept telling myself I would never make them again because it was not fun!  But then, after they had time to set and I tasted them, I changed my tune. Now I think I might make these again for Valentine's Day!

If they have enough time to chill in the refrigerator and you use a plastic fork with the two middle tines out, or in my case, I used a metal utensil I usually use to hold the corn with as I cut it off the cob, that also has only two pointy tines on it, you can dip them quicker than I originally did.  I figured out though that the dough is finicky in that if the dough was too chilled as I dipped, it would get stuck to my fork and the chocolate on the bottom would come off.  But if the peppermint log had sat out for too long on the counter, it was too soft to be dipped.  It reminds me of the childhood story, "The 3 bears".  The temperature has to be just right.  But once I got that, it went MUCH smoother!

So now that I have scared you off from making these :) they really are delicious!  I will even be making them again next year (and that is saying something!)  You could make these anytime of year, I just threw them into my Christmas treat making rotation as something special to look forward to (other than the dipping of course!)

Homemade Peppermint Patties
Ingredients
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp softened butter
2 tsp peppermint extract
2 Tbsp heavy cream
12 oz melting chocolate (like Ghiradelli’s dark chocolate wafers)
Peppermint candy canes, crushed (optional)

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, and cream. Beat them with a paddle attachment until the mixture comes together. It will be dry and crumbly as you start mixing it.

Turn the mixer speed higher and beat until the candy comes together and is light and creamy. When you touch it, it should be soft but not at all sticky. If it seems sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until it’s no longer sticky. It should be very stiff, like Play-Doh.

Scrape the candy paste out onto a long piece of cling wrap, and form it into a thin tube, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Wrap it well in cling wrap and twist the ends so that it stays in place. Chill the candy until it is very firm, about 45 minutes or longer if needed.

A trick I learned from the blog I got the recipe from said to keep your candy round on the bottom, cut a slit in an old cardboard paper towel tube, and put the candy inside. This will help keep the bottom from flattening as it sits in the refrigerator.

Once firm, use a large sharp knife to slice off rounds about 1/4 inch thick. You should get about 36 candies from this recipe.

Melt the chocolate wafers in the microwave. Melt in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. The great thing about using Melting Chocolate Wafers is that they always set quickly at room temperature, and always produce a nice shiny coating, plus they don’t need to be tempered!

Use a fork or dipping tools to dip a patty completely into the melted coating. Let the excess coating drip back into the bowl. Set the dipped peppermint patty onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper with another fork, and repeat the dipping process with the remaining peppermint patties. If they get too soft to dip, chill them briefly in the refrigerator until they’re firm again. If you are using candy canes, sprinkle them on top while the chocolate is still wet.

Let the patties set at room temperature. You can trim any uneven edges or “feet” from your candies once they’ve set. Store your homemade peppermint patties in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. You can also use them in baking recipes, just like you would store-bought patties. Try chopping them up and adding them to brownies, cookies, or cupcakes. Another fun variation is to change the flavor of extract to make different flavored centers. Try vanilla, almond, or coconut!


Note: You will need to keep your chocolate warm while dipping or it will cool off fast from dipping the frozen mint discs.

Recipe from: here

Friday, January 23, 2015

Taco Seasoning {from scratch}

Now that I usually make these tacos, I don't regularly buy taco seasoning packets anymore.  But the problem I have found is that some of my other recipes, like my taco pie, call for a small amount of taco seasoning.  Since I no longer have it on hand, I had to get creative and make it from scratch.
This one I found is the most similar to the packet taco seasoning that I used to buy.  Plus you can store this in an air tight container for months without it going bad.  I go through mine quicker than that, but you get the point.  The ingredients are pantry staples, so I can count on being able to whip this up quickly.  I always, double or triple this amount so that I can have some for future needs as well.  Enjoy friends!

Taco Seasoning
Printable Recipe
1 TBSP chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

In a small bowl mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  Store in an airtight container. 


To use with Tacos, use about 2 TBSP of the taco seasoning for every 1 pound of meat. 

Recipe source: from here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy New Years and Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I am pretty sure you are tired of hearing this, but I can't believe its 2015 all ready!  I mean it was, 3 weeks ago :)  Ya, I am still trying to rouse myself out of my holiday coma.  The holidays were a whirlwind of family parties, lots of food and fun.  Now that we have moved closer to our families, we get to see them more often, which is exactly why we chose to move!  My parents came into town for Christmas and we had a wonderful time. Then we had a couple baptisms of my nieces and nephews, which included birthday parties, food, bowling, hot tubs, and stuffing 20 children into a limo (which gave us adults 30 minutes of pure quiet bliss :))
I have meant to sit down several times over the last few weeks to blog some of our favorite dinners, treats, and yummy goodness, but family was my priority...you understand, right? You probably have felt the same! But I am back in business (well, not really since this is just a fun little blog that I do, but you get the point!), but things are going to be getting even better!  I have been wanting to do this for awhile now, but haven't.  I want to start doing tutorials on how to easily chop a million tomatoes for salsa, how to measure flour without making the end result be dense, you know, all the vital knowledge you have been waiting for!  Ha ha, no, well, at least it will help simplify life in the kitchen, which is what I am all about.  I also want to start throwing out some of the fun projects we have been doing around out house and different crafty things (they do happen every once in awhile!) I have managed to make.

Today though, I am going to share a list of our favorite soups since it has been bleak, cold and wintery here, we have been making all of these a lot!  And I am adding another one of our favorites I don't all ready have on the blog.  Enjoy!

Other Favorite Soups we have been making lately:
Sausage and Tortellini
Chicken Corn Chowder
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Cream Cheese and Chicken Soup
Chili
Creamy Chicken Noodle
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Baked Potato Soup
Printable Recipe
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp flour
4-4 ½ cups milk
3-4 baked potatoes, peeled and cubed*
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for the topping
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup sour cream, plus more for the topping
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 green onions chopped, plus more for the topping
8-10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled for the topping

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Whisk in flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly until thickened.  Stir in potatoes and green onions.  Bring to a boil and stir frequently.  If using uncooked potatoes, when they are finished cooking, take a potato masher and mash in the pot, leaving some still a little more chunky.  If using all ready cooked potatoes, start mashing once the sauce starts to boil and thicken. This will give a nice consistency to the soup.  Add chicken broth. 

Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. 

Mix in cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Continue stirring frequently until cheese is melted.  This soup gets thick, so add a little more milk if you want a thinner consistency.

Top with bacon, more shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions. 


*Note:  I have used cooked and uncooked potatoes in this soup, both work.  If you do use uncooked potatoes, just cook until they are fork tender.

Recipe source: adapted from All recipes

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge



Every year before Christmas time, my husband and I compile a must have treat list that we want to make during the holidays.  It is always a few go-to's with a few new ones sprinkled into the mix.  And one of those new ones is this fudge.  It is so yummy!  One piece is pretty rich, so it goes a long way.  I always love going up to fudge counters and sampling their different varieties, but when it comes down to what I traditionally make, I tend to use this pure simple chocolate fudge recipe.  But now I can add this new fudge recipe to our must have list.  It was worth every step!
The coolest part about this fudge is that though it has 3 separate layers, the two fudge layers only have two ingredients each, making it pretty simple to make.  I honestly made this in less than 30 minutes, including clean up! You will need to let it sit in the fridge over night or at least 4 few hours, before eating it or cutting into it.

Side note, I doubled the recipe, putting it in a 9x13 pan and it worked beautifully.
Mint chocolate Chip Fudge
Ingredients
2 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 14 oz can
1 ½ cups white chocolate baking chips
1 tsp peppermint extract (see note above)*
2 drops green food coloring (or more)
1 tsp oil
½ cup mini chocolate chips and Andes Crème De Menth Baking chips

Directions:
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper or wax paper.  Spray paper with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 ½ cups chocolate chips with ¾ cups sweetened condensed milk, stirring occasionally.  Spread melted chocolate mixture into prepared pan and chill for 5-10 minutes.

In another saucepan, melt white baking chips and remaining condensed milk, stirring until completely smooth.  Remove from heat and add peppermint extract and food coloring.  Spread mint layer over chilled chocolate layer. Chill again for 5-10 minutes while you make the last layer.

Melt remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 tsp oil in the microwave for 30 second increments.  Don’t over cook.  Stir until completely smooth.  Spread over chilled mint layer.  Top with mini chocolate chips and Andes baking chips.


Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until fudge is completely set.  Cut into squares.  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator up to two weeks.  You can freeze these, but the texture is not exactly the same when you thaw it. 
Recipe slightly modified from here

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oatmeal Cream Pies

 Do you remember these from when you were a kid?  Or maybe you still eat them now.  I totally didn't care what people said the cream was made of; my little heart still loved 'em.  But a few years back, I bought them as a special treat for my own kids and they tasted awful!  I wasn't sure if they were even the same cookie or if my tastes had really changed that much.  Either way, I haven't bought them since.  But, because I have such good memories of these cookies, I have been on the look out for a good replica, minus the horse hooves in the cream :)  And I think this recipe recreated oatmeal cream pies, for the better!

The other night we were all in a baking mood, so my daughter and husband made these cookies, while my sons and I made cinnamon roll sugar cookies....yes, the recipe is coming!   And everyone was trying to snitch the beaters, but when my husband is around we all are a little more aware of salmonella poisoning (blast that medical background!) and there were 5 hungry faces waiting by the oven as they came out.  We barely had time to let them cool before we frosted and ate them.

I am using that to deem these as tasty and delicious!  They are a very different taste and texture than my favorite homemade Oreo cookies, but follow the same idea. Creamy frosting sandwiched between two cookies. And these have oatmeal, so they are partially good for you too :)

I would definitely say these would be worth being on the holiday cookie round-up to deliver to neighbors or make as a treat for Santa, he might really need 5-6 to keep him going on Christmas Eve.

And as you can see from the pictures, they are a flat cookie, so when you are spacing them on the cookie sheet, beware, they spread.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting new yummy cookies and treats, and easy meal ideas to get us all through the holidays, helping us keep our minds focused on what is truly important.
Oatmeal Cream Pies
1 ¾ cups flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar (light will work, just a slightly milder flavor)
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cups quick oats

Frosting:
1 stick of butter, softened (1/2 cup)
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
dash of salt
milk to spreading consistency (about 3 TBSP)

For cookies;
preheat oven to 350.  In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, set aside.  In another bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time.  Next add in the flour mixture until combined.  Add in the oats.  Drop 1-2 TBSP size drops onto a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.  They spread,  so don’t be tempted to put them closer!  Bake for 10 minutes or just until they are browned on the edged.  This will help them stay soft.  Let them cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then remove to a cooling rack.  Cool completely and frost and make into sandwiches.   

For Frosting:
Beat butter until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Slowly add milk to get to right consistency.  Beat until smooth. 


Recipe from my friend's blog

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders AKA funeral rolls

Sorry for the low lighting.  It gets dark so early now that by the time we are eating, I have no natural light left! And truthfully I can't have a photo shoot every night before dinner...I might be taken and eaten alive by 3 small children :)
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Our break was wonderful and much needed.  It was great spending so much time with family and we loved every minute!

Now that we are full throttle Christmas mode around here, I wanted to share one of the easiest meals we have been making around here.  I've seen a few variations around the web for these sliders, but I simply chose these since they don't HAVE to marinate for 24 hours. If you want to make them in advance, you can, otherwise, simply put the sauce on top, let the oven preheat for 10 minutes and pop 'em in. These have become one of our favorite quick weeknight meals and I am planning on making these when my family comes into town to visit because of their simplicity.

But they aren't just easy to make, they taste really good too! AND they even taste good reheated the next day, and for a non-loving leftover gal, that's saying something!  Plus, you can make as many or as few as you want or need.  What can get better than that?!

The recipe is pretty basic, you make a ham and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwich on rolls you can get at Sam's, Costco, Walmart for really inexpensive.  I like pairing good quality ham with sharp cheddar cheese and turkey with provolone. We always have the ingredients on hand since we make stromboli and sandwiches so often, but you can really use any combination your family will eat.  The topping is really the star of the show.  4 out of the 5 members of my family love every part of this, the 5th (middle child!) prefers his without the topping. I can live with that!   So if you need a quick weeknight meal to simplify your life a little or are in charge of feeding a crowd, these are winners in our book!  Give them a try, even my non sandwich lover daughter asks for seconds.

Hot Ham & Cheese Poppyseed Sliders

24 good white rolls

24 pieces good quality ham or Turkey (or a combination of both)
24 sliced provolone and cheddar cheese (combined)
Mayo for spreading

Poppy seed sauce 
1 1/2 TBSP poppy seeds
1 1/2 TBSP yellow mustard
1 stick butter, melted
1 TBSP minced onion
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Cut rolls in half lengthwise; spread mayo on the inside of each roll half . Place a slice of meat  and a slice of cheese inside of each roll.  Close rolls & place onto a large baking dish or heavy cookie sheet, very close together.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients and pour evenly over all of the sandwiches.  Let sit 10 minutes, or until butter sets slightly.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

** sandwiches can be assembled a day ahead & kept in the fridge ready to bake. 

Recipe adapted from here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving

I am so excited for Thanksgiving this year!  I can't wait to eat all.day.long.  Oh it is a wonderful day!  What a blessing this country is to us and the hand of God is in each of our lives.

 Just in case any of you need a little last minute inspriation (no judging here!) I compiled a list of some of our favorites we have had over the years.  Most years we have the traditional with a sprinkling of something new each time. And for those of you who don't love pumpkin pie like me, I added my favorite dessert...pumpkin crunch!  This year I made this for my son's preschool Thanksgiving feast and it was gobbled up :)  I will be spending the rest of the week getting ready for the big day and enjoying family time.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. See ya next week!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Slow Cooker Maple Glazed Ham

Baked Garlic Mashed Potatoes -what I am bringing to the feast this year

Make Ahead rolls

Broccoli craisin salad

Orange Glazed Green beans

Coconut cream pie---this is my contribution this year

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Pumpkin Crunch

And here is a link for a few more ideas


Friday, November 21, 2014

Cinnabun Bites with Vanilla glaze

Does anyone else feel like Thanksgiving shouldn't just be a lunch or dinner affair? By the time I eat, I am so starved that I eat way too much and feel sick by the end! I think since Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and eating a lot of food, we should start with breakfast...can I get an amen here! But seriously, how much better the day would be if started out right. So that is why I am sharing these lovely little morsels of goodness. I mean just look at those babies...deliciousness...oh and they smell heavenly as well!
I know we all have a lot of food to prepare so why am I telling you to add more to your plate (pun intended:)) Well because these can be prepped the night before and then thrown into the oven the morning of. How easy does that get?  If your family is anything like ours, your kids will be satisfied and keep their cute little grubby hands out of the big feast until it is finally ready!  Now that is worth it to me.  So if you need something super simple to throw together and fill some tummies before the meal, this would be a good option. 

Awhile ago before we started un-packing and doing the whole new house thing, I had some ladies over for lunch and this was our dessert.  I had never made them before, which can go either way when you make them for other people, but one thing is for sure....Martha Stewart got these right! WOW is all I can say.  They taste just like a cinnamon roll from cinnabun.  They are pure sweet pleasure for your mouth.  Dare I say there wasn't any left by the time everyone went home.  I didn't have my right pan to bake these in, but as you can see, they still worked in an 8x8 pan.  The only thing I noticed was that the middle ones were a little more doughy, but you can experiment with pans and sizes.
Cinnamon Bun Bites
Printable Recipe
Ingredients for dough:
½ cup warm water
1 TBSP active dry yeast
4 ½ cups all purpose flour, more if needed
4 large eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp course salt (kosher salt works) (use 2 if using unsalted butter)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened, salted
plus ½ cup melted butter for pan

Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons whole milk (I sucessfully used 1% milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast evenly over water with a little sugar and slightly mix, and let stand until foamy, 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in 1/2 cup flour to form a loose paste. Let rise in a warm place until yeast mixture has risen and fallen, about 30 minutes.

Add eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and remaining flour to yeast mixture. Knead dough, using dough hook attachment on mixer, until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes

Add softened ½ cup of butter, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky). Turn out dough onto an unfloured work surface, and knead by hand until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer dough to another bowl, and let rise in a warm place, covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough; press out air bubbles.

Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate or 9-inch square glass baking dish. Place melted butter in a bowl. Stir together remaining 1 cup sugar and the cinnamon in another bowl.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (you should have about 40-45). Working with 1 at a time, dip balls into melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar and place in pie plate. Stack balls to form a dome. Sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar, and drizzle with any leftover butter. Cover with plastic wrap, and let balls rise by half, about 1 hour. If you are going to cook this the next day, you don’t need to let them rise, just make sure your plastic wrap firmly covers the dough and place in refrigerator.  The morning of, take rolls out of the refrigerator, let warm for a few minutes while the oven pre-heats, then remove saran wrap.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, watching the edges so they don’t burn.  If you need to, put tin foil around the edges if they are getting too dark.

If you are making this the same day:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap balls, and place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and firm, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let bites cool in dish 15 minutes, then drizzle with glaze.

Glaze:
Stir together sugar and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together butter, milk, and vanilla, and stir into sugar until mixture forms a smooth paste. Keep glaze at room temperature until ready to drizzle over cinnamon-bun bites. Before using, whisk until smooth.

Recipe from Martha Stewart and William Sonoma

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites

 I'm getting a teeeeny bit excited for the holidays!  This year is so full of family, good food and fun that I am just giddy inside.  We were talking with our kids about the next month or two and how much we get to spend with family and I could see it in their eyes too.  Though moving has been a tough transition, times like this make it all worth it. We all feel that way. 

We are enjoying Thanksgiving with my parents in law, so they will do most of the cooking, but I offered to bring Mashed potatotes and coconut cream pie...MMMM!!  And I have all ready been planning and scheming what kind of appetizers, dips, treats, sides and food we will have during the Christmas season too.  Each time I go to the grocery store, I try and pick up an item or two in preparation for all the yumminess.  It's hard not to with all the markdown on baking and cooking items they are having right now.  If you have been to the store in the last few weeks you know what I am talking about!

And best of all, my parents are coming to stay with us and I am beyond excited.  I don't think they have ever stayed at our house on Christmas!!!  I'm excited to share in all the fun and excitment with them! 

And in loo of the upcoming  baking season I am going to share with you a new treat that I will most definietely be making, Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites. 

This fall a family offered me pounds and pounds of apples, so I have been finding a lot of great ways to use them up.  I canned super easy and healthy applesauce (which I will post about another time soon!) that my kids love, I made freezer apple pie filling (and I can post this if anyone wants it!), apple crisp, these slow cooker glazed cinnamon apples which are good with fat boy ice cream sandwiches and over oatmeal if you were wondering :), and made a variation of one of my all time favorite dessert bars, caramel apple cheesecake bars, into mini cups.  And oh were they good! 

Let me tell you how good my house has smelled over the last few months.  The smell of apples cooking with cinnamon is euphoric. And I love it.

Okay, sorry, back to these babies. They are delightfully sinful and I feel like having 2 or 3 isn't so bad (would an entire pan be a bad thing??) They are perfect treats to take to parties, or give as part of a Christmas cookie exchange and to give to neighbors.  Plus they taste best when they have had time to sit in the refrigerator for about a day, which means you can make them ahead of time!

They are slighly different than the bars, but just as delicious. The bottom is a graham cracker crust, which forms nicely in the baking cups. Other than that, these are just a slightly varied form of the bars. You can use whichever you like best. I like using a combination of the two. So that is the recipe I have below. Enjoy my friends!

And before you look at the ingredient list and run the other way, I promise it looks like a lot of work, but it really comes together quicker than you think.  Most times I will make caramel sauce in advance so that step is all ready finished, but even if you don't, it will be well worth it!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites
Yield: 18  Prep Time: 30 min  Cook time: 25 minutes

Crust
10 graham crackers sheets, finely crushed (1 1/3 cups)
2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Streusel
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

Filling
2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Apples
3-4 small tart apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped..really small so they cook through (like granny smith)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Caramel Sauce (or use 12 oz store bought)
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup salted butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Directions
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor or blender, crush graham cracker squares. Add in sugar and cinnamon. Mix for 30 seconds or until well combined.  Put crumb mixture into a separate mixing bowl and pour in butter and using a fork, stir until evenly moistened. Divide mixture among 18 paper lined muffin cups. If you like more crust, just make 12.  Press into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the streusel:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, quick oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add cold butter and using fingertips, rub butter into dry mixture until it comes together it small crumbles and pieces of butter are no longer visible. Transfer to refrigerator while preparing apples and filling.

For the Apples:
In a bowl, toss chopped apples with lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and evenly coat apples. Set aside.

For the filling:
In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed, cream together cream cheese with sugar just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in sour cream and vanilla.

For the caramel sauce :
Whisk sugar and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Set aside. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, until ready to use.

To assemble cheesecakes:
Divide cheesecake batter evenly among 18 muffin cups pouring filing over crust (I used a 1/4 cup and filled it about 3/4 full). Divide apples evenly over cheesecake layer, then finish by sprinkling a heaping tablespoon of the streusel over tops. Bake in preheated oven 23 - 25 minutes. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes, then transfer to fridge and chill 3 hours. Serve with caramel sauce.

Recipe adapted from this blog
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