Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cake

Well, it is the end of the school year and I decided I wanted to make one last goodie this year to share with my colleagues. As I was looking through my Facebook feed today I came across a recipe from Cooking Panda that caught my eye, Blueberry Cheesecake. But it wasn't actually a cheesecake... instead a pierced cake with blueberry compote and a cream cheese topping. If you have read my recipes before you know that I can't just copy a recipe...I have to bump up the flavor. So here is what I came up with:

When I think of blueberry, the next flavor that comes to mind is lemon. So I decided that I would see if I could lemonize this blueberry cake.

*a sugar-free yellow cake mix
*3 eggs
*1 c. 2% milk
*1/3 c. vegetable oil
*a box of lemon sugar-free gelatin
*1 1/2 c. Fresh or frozen blueberries
*1/2 c. Splenda
*juice of 1/2 lemon
*2 shots of citrus vodka (optional)
*a box of lemon sugar-free pudding mix
*1 1/2 c. 2% milk
*8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
*1/2 c. fat-free half and half
*1/2 c. Splenda

Start by mixing up the cake. Follow the package directions, adding the eggs and oil, substituting the milk for the water and adding in the dry gelatin mix to add the lemon flavor to your cake.

Bake in a sprayed 13 x 9 pan. My directions were to bake it at 325° for 35 minutes. It came out perfect.
While the cake was baking, I worked on the blueberry compote. You know...I am becoming a great fan of compote, especially as a topping. You can make one out of almost any fruit or combinations of fruit. In a small skillet, add your fruit, Splenda and lemon juice. Cook on a medium heat. The time depends on your fruit and how much you want your fruit to break down. It really is a personal preference. But even if you like your fruit really soft, it shouldn't take more than about 15 minutes. Just stir from time to time.

 If you like the flavor, add a little citrus vodka or maybe some lemoncello, just before you take it off the heat.

Remove the skillet from the hear and set aside allowing it to cool.
In a mixer with whisk attachment or in a medium bowl, add your pudding mix and milk and whisk well. Allow pudding to set up while waiting for your cake to come out of the oven. The pudding will be a little thicker than if you had made it according to package directions.
Once the cake is done, allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Then take something with a small handle and poke holes all over the cake.
Pour/spoon the pudding on top of the cake and spread it around with a spatula. Spread it evenly making sure the pudding seeps down into the holes you made.

Allow the cake to cool even further. Once the cake and your compote have both cooled, spread the compote on top and place the cake in the fridge while you make the final topping.
Add your softened cream cheese and Splenda into your mixer with a whisk attachment. Turn your mixer on and slowly add the half and half.

(Note: the recipe from Cooking Panda called for heavy whipping cream. I think that would be absolutely wonderful, rich, thick and creamy. But, I didn't have any and so I substituted the half and half. Use what you have and experiment.)

You will probably need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to be sure and get the cream cheese and half and half well incorporated.  Once they are mixed, turn the speed up to medium high and mix for a couple of minutes.
If your mixture seems a little thin, you might want to put it into the fridge for a little bit to allow it a chance to thicken.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the top, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • This was a super easy dessert to make. At this time of year... what could be better than blueberries!
Also, just take note of this process and then let your imagination combine any number of flavors at different times throughout the year. This could be 20 desserts in one.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Carrot Cake

It's Easter. And if we're talking dessert, we have to be talking Carrot Cake... what other kind of dessert would the Easter Bunny eat!

Now when we are talking carrot cake, there is NO better one than my Great Aunt Ora Brunson's. If you are interested in that fully decadent version, I am going to link it here. However, I thought that I would give it a go and see if I could somehow get close in a guiltless version.

Start with:
  • One yellow sugar-free cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. milk (2%)
  • 1 small jar of carrot baby food
  • 1 1/2 c. finely shredded carrots (5-6 medium)
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, undrained 
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. vanilla

 *First you need to mix up the cake mix. Mine calls for 3 eggs, 1/3 c. oil, and 1 c. water. I substituted milk (I had 2% in my fridge) for the water.
*I really wanted to replicate, as much as possible, the flavors of my Great Aunt Ora's cake, so next come the add-ins: grated carrots, pineapple, raisins, pecans, cinnamon and vanilla. In order to intensify the carrot flavor and overcome the built-in flavor of the cake mix, I added the baby food... just some pure flavor and it helps to keep the cake moist.

*Spray two round cake pans, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Divide batter between the pans and tap on the counter to help remove any air bubbles. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Be sure to test the center, so that it is not jiggly and a toothpick comes out clean.
*While the cake is baking, mix up the frosting. Use:
  • 2- 8 oz packages of reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 canister of sugar-free vanilla frosting
*You may want to lay the cream cheese out to soften while you mix up the cake batter. It will just make it easier to whip. But no worries if you forget, it may just take a few more minutes.

*With the whip attachment, add cream cheese and prepared frosting to your mixing bowl. Mix together on medium speed until cream cheese is completely incorporated into the frosting.

*Cover and place in refrigerator to stiffen.

*Use the remaining time that the cake is baking and chop some pecans. Now this is going to be your preference as far as decorating the cake goes. It just goes from my experience that the sides of a carrot cake are coated with pecans,... but if you aren't a pecan fan, maybe just a few sprinkles on top may be enough. To cover the sides and sprinkle the top, I used about 1 cup of chopped pecans.
 *When the cakes come out of the oven, allow them to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge and turn them out onto a cooling rack.

*Be sure to cool the cakes completely, as nothing will make cream cheese frosting thin and runny more quickly than trying to frost a warm cake.
 *About 10 minutes before frosting the cake, set the frosting out of the fridge. Add a dab of frosting to your serving/cake plate, just so that the cake won't slide around. Add a layer of frosting to the first layer. Sprinkle a few pecans here if you would like to.

*Add on the second layer, press lightly, and then frost the entire cake. I like to frost the top first, and then work the frosting over the sides. Note: the frosting recipe makes plenty, so you don't have to be skimpy.
*This part takes a little patience, but just go slowly. Take a small amount of chopped pecans between your fingers and press them into the side frosting of the cake. I think it pays off in the presentation, and hey... you are adding protein to your dessert.

*Sprinkle a few additional pecans on the top.
*And here you go!! One Easter carrot cake... frankly, an anytime carrot cake. Does it taste just like my Great Aunt Ora's?... No. But is it a guiltless and decadent, super yummy carrot cake?...YES! I love the moistness that the pineapple and raisins give the cake. Keep it in the fridge so that it will last several days... oh, that's only if you just made it for yourself. No need to tell anyone that this is a No Sugar Added recipe, and it will be gone in a snap.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blackberry Pie / Cobbler

Fourth of July in Arkansas means sweet corn, watermelon, and blackberries.  We have great fruit farms here in NW Arkansas and I have been to the blueberry farm this summer. However, we have blackberries growing wild here and so I have a hard time paying $3 or $4 a pint for something I can get for free. A couple of months ago I started keeping my eye out for blooming blackberry bushes as I ran and biked around the trails in our area. This last week I went for my first picking. I am not going to say exactly where because I plan to go back for more. And because I already have someone scoping the same bushes as they didn't have as many as I was expecting and the grass around was trampled down. I am hoping that person got as many as they wanted so that I can get enough to put in the freezer. I only got enough this time for one pie, but it was a good pie. Also, I can't really complain, because they were free!

Wild blackberries are much smaller and quite a bit more tart than cultivated ones. No worries... just a little more Splenda will do the trick. This recipe is a  No Sugar Added  recipe as the blackberries do have natural sugars.

This recipe is for a small pie/cobbler. Now we have had the discussion before about the difference between pie and cobbler. If you want to revisit that discussion you can read it here.

4 cups blackberries
1 cup Splenda
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Cinnamon and nutmeg may seem a strange addition to blackberries, but I add them to any of my fruit pies and cobbler. If it is not your favorite, you can certainly leave it out.

Since I was only making a small pie, I only made a single recipe of pie crust. I used about 2/3 on the bottom and 1/3 on the top.

1 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of vegetable shortening
3-4 tablespoons water

Add the flour and salt to a bowl.  Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or a fork. Add water and stir with a fork to incorporate flour into dough. You may need to work it with your hands at the end.
 Use about 2/3 of dough for the bottom crust. Put a little flour on your counter or board. Roll the dough out fairly thin. Think about the shape of your dish to determine the shape of your dough. Since I was going the cobbler route, I left the edges rustic not worrying about finished edges.
After lining your dish with the dough add in the fruit mixture. Add in three or four pats of butter. Roll out the last part of the dough to top your cobbler. No need for it to reach the edges. You really want some of the fruit peaking out.  Don't forget to cut a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape. I also usually sprinkle the top with just a little more Splenda to make the top sparkle.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Just watch for the crust to begin to turn golden brown.  I don't know about you bit I want to eat my cobbler warm...
... and a little ice cream can only make it better. To keep your sugar down, don't forget to use a no sugar added variety or a low-fat or no sugar frozen yogurt.

Well, that didn't last long, so I will be off in a couple of days to check the bushes again... just hope I beat that other person this time.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

I can't believe that it's June!  Looking back I haven't posted since the middle of April. One thing my husband has always said, "Don't bother her in August or in May". So the end of the school year was pretty hectic. Not so hectic that I haven't been baking, but hectic enough that I haven't had time to post. So I will try to make several posts in the next couple of weeks (now that I am on vacation) and get you caught up on what I have been doing.

May is traditionally strawberry month here in Arkansas. Over the last couple of years we have been getting wonderful strawberries year round from California. I do love this but I still think about eating strawberries more during the month of May. This May was no different and I was able to get some nice, small, sweet strawberries at the Farmer's Market. I was very busy so I also took some help from the grocery store for some yummy strawberry shortcake.

This was a no bake way to have a tasty spring or summer dessert. First I de-stemmed and sliced up a quart of fresh strawberries.
These berries were pretty sweet so I only added about a 1/3 cup of Splenda. You can always adjust this amount depending upon the sweetness of your berries.  Let this sit for a little while-30-45 minutes-to allow the berries to get a little juicy. Stir occasionally.
Here's my shortcut secret. This isn't technically shortcake but it is a great substitute when you are short on time.  You can pick up a Sugar-free angel food cake in the bakery section of your local supermarket.
Slice the cake and add one to each bowl. Spoon strawberries over the cake. Don't forget to get some of that great juice to soak into the cake.
Add a couple of squirts of some light whipped cream and you are set!!  Fast, easy and delicious!

If you have a little more time and want a true Oklahoma/Arkansas shortcake, you can mix up a batch of your favorite biscuit dough. I add just about a 1/4 cup of Splenda to make it slightly sweet. Just before you put them in the oven, sprinkle just a tad more on top of each biscuit and it will be pretty and sparkly.

Split the warm biscuit, add some strawberries-and juice-then top with the other half of the biscuit, some more strawberries and finally the whipped cream!  Both versions are amazing; it just depends on how much time you have.

A special note: One Saturday I got some strawberry pecan goat cheese at the Farmer's Market. Talk about decadence!!  I made the biscuit version of this dessert and added a spread of this amazing goat cheese to the inside of the warm biscuit before labeling on the strawberries. Well, I'm not sure I can even describe this dessert to you. Maybe you had better give it a try!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

This last weekend I had a hankerin' for some peanut butter cookies.  I found a recipe in my own cookbook and decided to give it try.  There is some brown sugar so this is a  Low Sugar  recipe.

This is a pretty simple recipe:

  • 1/2 c. Splenda
  • 1/4 c. Splenda Blend brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. shortening/butter
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt

 Mix the first 5 ingredients.  Beat until well combined.
 Next, add the dry ingredients.  Mix on the lowest or "stir" setting.  This will prevent the flour from going all over you and your counter.  Stop once during mixing and use a spatula to scrape down sides and combine well.
 Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 3 hours.  This is always the hard part for me.  I want to eat the dough... lucky if I have any to make cookies out of.
 Once the dough is firm, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll dough into balls and place on a sprayed cookie sheet.  It's not necessary, but I just don't think they are peanut butter cookies if they aren't criss-crossed with a fork.  What can I say; I'm a traditionalist.
Bake for 9-10 minutes.  Cookies will be a little soft when you take them out of the oven.  Allow them to sit on the pan for just a few minutes before you remove to a cooling rack.

These are not quite as moist as a regular peanut butter cookie, but the taste is good and when you have a hankerin'... well they are just pretty good!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Raspberry Cupcakes

It has been a while since I have made some cupcakes.  A colleague of mine recently retired and so as most people do, we had a small retirement lunch in his honor.  I asked him what his favorite flavor was and he said "garlic".  I just didn't think that garlic cupcakes sounded very good, so I asked him for an alternate flavor; this time he responded "raspberry".

Once you understand about using sugar-free flavorings, like gelatin powder or drink mix powder, it really is just left up to your imagination to combine them in any number of ways to create new flavors.

 The first step is to enhance the sugar-free cake mix:

  • yellow sugar-free cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. 2% milk
  • 1/2 c. non-fat yogurt
  • 1 box of sugar-free raspberry flavored gelatin powder
Add in the box of flavored gelatin.  This is of course where you have the option of using any flavor you or your guests might like.

Mix together well.
 For these cupcakes, I decided to add a filling of raspberry jam.  So to start with, I added about a half of a scoop of batter to the cupcake liners in my muffin tin.

You can coordinate your jam flavor to your cupcake flavor.  Mix and match; there are a lot of flavor combinations.
 Put about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar-free raspberry jam in the center of each cupcake.  Next fill up the cupcake liner.  I know that most recipes only tell you to fill the liner 2/3 or 3/4 of the way full.  But if you would like a full, almost overflowing cupcake, you need to fill the liner almost to the top.  You won't get a full 2 dozen cupcakes, but those you have will be big and beautiful.

Bake according to the package directions.  After removing from the oven, cool for a few minutes in the muffin tin.  After a few minutes, remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Now comes the fun part; the icing/frosting.  What do you think is the difference between icing and frosting?  I guess that I have always just used them interchangeably.

I wanted to make the frosting raspberry as well.  It just so happened that I had a half a can of chocolate and a half a can of vanilla sugar-free frostings left from some other desserts.  So, I mixed them together and added another box of sugar-free raspberry gelatin powder and beat them together well.

I used a piping bag and a pretty tip to swirl the frosting on, but I didn't go all the way to the edge since I wanted the pretty deep pink color of the cupcakes to show.

The lunch was wonderful and everyone enjoyed the cupcakes...even if they weren't garlic flavored!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cake Sugar Cookies

You know those amazing, soft, pillowey, cakey, sugar cookies that you can get at your local superstore?  When the different holidays roll around, they always have them out with the appropriate colored frosting.  As I strolled through a few days before St. Patrick's Day, those luscious cookies with the beautiful green icing were calling me.  I resisted and made some of my own when I got home.

 So you get those cakey cookies by using a cake mix.  All you need to do is follow the package directions:

  • sugar-free cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. oil
All you need to do is eliminate the water.
 You will notice that the batter will be obviously thick; although it won't quite be as stiff as regular cookie dough.  My daughter and I wanted to get into the St. Patrick's day spirit and added some green food coloring to the batter -- about 3 or 4 drops did it.

 Spray your cookie sheets and preheat your oven to 365 degrees.  In order to handle this sticky dough, you should wet your hands.  This will allow you to roll the dough into balls.

Once you have the dough in balls, use your fingers to flatten them out to around 1/4" thick.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Cookies will be pretty soft.  Allow them to sit on the cookie sheet for a few more minutes before you move them to a cooling rack.
 To frost the cookies, I used a half of a can of sugar-free vanilla frosting.  Again, in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, we added about 10 drops of green food coloring to the frosting.

(FYI:  since the sugar-free cake mix only comes in yellow and not white, we had to add some yellow food coloring to our icing to make the greens compatible)

Enjoy these soft cookies for any holiday or season with the coloring of your choice.  It's the perfect irony...Sugar-free  sugar cookies!