Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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If you don’t like peanut because due to allergies or a mental illness then this recipe isn’t for you, man. It’s chock full of peanut buttery goodness and the perfect amount of milk chocolate– simply divine.

When you think of perfect food combinations, what comes to mind? Peas and carrots, meat and potatoes, wine and cheese . All of these are significant flavor profiles that we understand, growing up here in America. But what about the best combination of all —chocolate and peanut butter? Not only is this the best of flavor concoction known to man, but it’s the mix I never stray from at Pinkberry.

I really don’t buy the whole romantic idea of chocolate finding peanut butter by a chance, clumsy collision between a dude with a chocolate bar and a lady sashaying with a spoon and a jar of Jif. That was just a cheesy commercial! In fact, most accounts of history award the founding of this famous combination to Harry Reese, who began working for Milton Hershey’s Pennsylvania chocolate factory in 1917. Talk about a flavor fusion that endured! Mr. Harry Reese invented the peanut butter cup, the one and only REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup!

I was a bit weary of mixing peanut butter and cream cheese, the core ingredient of cheesecake. If you’re anything like me, the thought of cream cheese and peanut butter intentionally mixed probably gives you a bit of pause… I don’t know cheese plus sweetened peanuts? That can’t be right! Well, I was wrong. They are a perfect match. The tangy/saltiness of the cream cheese help the peanut butter hit all the right notes.

Oh, and just a random site note– don’t you hate it when recipes don’t call out brand names? For goodness sakes a “chocolate sandwich cookie” is an OREO. A ” chocolate peanut butter candy” is a REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP. Phew, glad I got that off my chest.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • ·         1 cup crushed Oreos ($1.25)
  • ·         2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted ($.10)

Cheesecake:

  • ·         2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened ($2.50)
  • ·         1/2 cup creamy peanut butter ($1.00)
  • ·         1 tbsp all-purpose flour ($.03)
  • ·         1/4 cup half & half ($.20)
  • ·         2 eggs ($.40)
  • ·         2/3 cup sugar ($.10)
  • ·         1 tsp vanilla extract ($.05)

Chocolate Ganache Topping:

  • ·         1 cup chocolate chips ($1.00)
  • ·         1/2 cup heavy cream ($1.00)
  • ·         1 cup mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped ($2.00)

Total: $8.28

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the Oreos and melted butter with a spoon. Place muffin liners into each cup and add about 1-2 teaspoons of the crumbled graham crackers to the bottom of each cup. Bake for 5 minutes.
  2. While the crust is baking, prepare the cheesecake batter. In a bowl combine the 2 packages of softened cream cheese with the peanut butter and sugar. Mix well. Add the flour, half & half, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Finally, add the eggs and stir until incorporated.
  3. After the Oreo crusts have been removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350. Spoon the cheesecake batter into the muffin tin. Fill the cups almost to the top. Bake for about 15 minutes in the preheated oven. To test, gently shake the pan. The center should barely jiggle when done.
  4. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecakes to slowly cool (this will help prevent the cheesecakes from cracking). Open the oven door a few inches to allow the heat to escape. Once the cheesecakes are near room temperature, place them into the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours.
  5. Once the cheesecakes are cool, prepare the ganache. Add water to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Place a heatproof glass bowl over the pot and add the chocolate and heavy cream. Slowly stir with a spoon until the chocolate has melted, careful not to incorporate too much air. Once melted, remove from heat.
  6. Spoon 1 tsp of chocolate ganache over the cheesecakes. Sprinkle with chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups.

 

 

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

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I get very suspicious when the words “fat free” and cake are used in the same sentence. They really don’t belong together and when they are, I get worried. There are so many fat free desserts out there but most loaded with trans fats, hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients. So basically, all you’re really doing is clogging your arteries to save a few calories. Don’t get me wrong, there are many healthy guilt-free sweets out there, but I honestly believe it’s better to indulge in the real stuff as long as you do so in moderation. So many Americans (mostly girls my age) have become obsessed with anything labeled “skinny”, “guiltless” or “sinless”. Don’t let those marketing jerks fool you. If you want a freaking brownie, have a small one. Nobody is going to force feed you an entire tray of them.

Now, with all that said I discovered a perfect compromise to satiate any sweet tooth. I would love to take credit for this one, but the recipe has been floating around the web for years. I actually have no idea who came up with this but if I did I would give them a pat on the back.  It’s basically two ingredients: angel food cake mix and a can of pineapple. Cheap, easy, healthy– perfect.

Boxed cake mixes sometimes freak me out, mostly because you can’t even pronounce half of their ingredients, so I opted for an organic cake mix. It was only 75 cents more. I also bought crushed pineapple in it’s own juice, NOT syrup. As if this could get any better, I went completely Betty Crocker and made my own whipped cream (1 cup cold heavy cream and 2 tbs sugar, whip with hand mixer for 5 minutes).

Enjoy this heavenly treat!

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Ingredients

  • 1 Box Angel Food Cake ($3.50)
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple ($1.00)

Total: $4.50

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Use a bundt pan but do NOT grease it. Mix pineapple and cake mix in large mixing bowl. Pour batter in to Bundt pan and bake for 32-35 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Crème Brûlée

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Do you know of any five-year-olds that will tell you Crème Brûlée is their favorite dessert? Shouldn’t it be like Oreos or ice cream sundaes? Nope, not this girl. My infatuation with this caramelized custard began before I knew how to spell it. Don’t let the funny symbols and French name fool you. Despite being served at Michelin star restaurants, Crème Brûlée is incredibly easy to make and features four of the most rare ingredients on earth: sugar, eggs, vanilla and cream.

The one catch with this recipe is that you need to own a butane cooking torch. I will admit that I rarely use mine for culinary purposes but instead for lighting candles. You could probably also use it to keep poisonous bugs at bay or maybe even self defense! I was terrified to use mine for the first time but it’s actually quite easy to operate and all of them have a safety switch. Just keep it away from any toddlers or pets and you’ll be fine. If you can’t justify buying a torch, feel free to experiment with your oven broiler—I just can’t guarantee the same result.

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Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 1/3  cups heavy whipping cream ($1.00)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ($.05)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar ($.20)
  • 4 egg yolks ($.50)
  • 4 tbs superfine sugar ($.25)

Total: $2.00

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare 4 ramekins by placing them on a large baking pan (with a rim) so that the dishes do not touch each other. Pour water in the baking pan so that the water comes up a little less than halfway on the ramekins.

In a medium saucepan, heat cream and remove from burner JUST before it comes to a boil.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and 1/4 cup white sugar with a whisk. Gradually add in hot cream and whisk carefully so the eggs don’t curdle. Add in vanilla extract.

Pour equal amounts in dishes and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the batter doesn’t jiggle.

Let cool for a few minutes and then refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Sprinkle 1 tbs superfine sugar on each custard and use a butane torch (or broiler) to caramelize.

Peach Cobbler

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There is something completely intoxicating about the smell of peaches in the summertime. Get within 10 feet of them and try not to get weak in the knees. This fragrant fruit is one of my favorites so you could imagine my excitement when I saw organic peaches on sale for 92 cents a pound yesterday. I was at my “bargain” supermarket mind you, but I can almost guarantee that you won’t find peaches this cheap outside of Georgia…unless they are about to rot.

See, I have different stores for different shopping occasions.  One for meat and produce, one for seafood and one for all the non-organic necessities. This method is key for a frugal foodie like myself. I value quality, but I can also see through the marketing BS that specialty stores try and sell you on. Things like flour, eggs and butter are like mascara to me. I refuse to spend $89 on a tube of black goo that will always be ranked below good ‘ol Maybelline Great Lash. The same goes for peaches.

This dessert was swoon worthy and also super easy. Besides putting the spoon down, the hardest thing about it is slicing the peaches. If you’re peach pit averse like me, maybe you should invest in one of these. I know I am!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour ($.30)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($.20)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder ($.10)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ($.50)
  • 3 cups fresh, peeled peaches ($1.80)

Topping:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbs butter ($.10)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($.20)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar ($.40)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon ($.05)

Total: $3.70

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add in milk gradually and mix until just combined. Fold in sliced peaches. Add to greased baking dish.

For the topping, bring all ingredients to a boil then take off heat. Pour topping mix on top of flour and peach mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes, let cool before serving.

Victory Cake

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Raise your hand if you know what Victory Cake is. Well, let me re-phrase that. Raise your hand if, to you, Victory Cake is a layer of milk chocolate frosting sandwiched between two layers of Devil’s Food cake then smothered with Dream Whip topping. *Raises Hand*. This is another one of the pirated desserts from my mother’s blessed (and food stained) recipe book. It’s the cake that I always ask for on my birthday. Nobody else in my family likes it as much as I do, and that’s fine by me…more for Katie. My birthday is May 28th and being from Florida, this time of year tends to be quite warm in the sunshine state. The thing I love about this cake is that you actually serve it cold, straight out of the fridge. It’s the kind of dessert that is always better the next day. The other thing I love about it is that it’s a “doctored” boxed cake recipe—it’s so stinkin’ easy and you will trick your guests into thinking you slaved for hours in the kitchen.

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I am not exaggerating…this cake is ridiculous. It’s a triple threat—Devil’s Food cake, chocolate frosting center AND chocolate pudding mixed in?! Swoon. Chocolate is a life-giving elixir. I’m not sure if I could imagine a life without chocolate in it. Sure, we’d all fit into our jeans a little easier, but rest assured we would not be as happy. There are proven studies out there that say chocolate has a positive effect on mood disorders and mild depression. I’m not saying to go and gorge yourself on king-sized Butterfingers when you have a case of the Mondays, but the research does show that a small amount can help. To me, this suggests that maybe, somehow, in some other era, chocolate was an essential component needed to maintain psychological homeostasis. Too bad we went and ruined everything when we introduced the Big Mac and chili cheese fries into our diets…our poor bodies are confused. With that said, let’s take a step back. Give your body the fuel it needs and reward yourself with this pure and unadulterated goodness.

My roommate Jackie and I have the same birthday. 26!

My roommate Jackie and I have the same birthday. 26!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix ($2.00)
  • 4 eggs ($1.00)
  • ½ C vegetable oil ($.50)
  • 1 C Whole milk ($.50)
  • 5 oz INSTANT Chocolate Pudding mix ($1.00)

For the frosting:

  • 1 container Duncan Hines Classic Chocolate Frosting (center) ($2.00)
  • 1 Box dream whip ($4.00)
  • 1 C whole milk ($.50)

Total: $9.50

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Mix together cake mix, oil, eggs, milk and instant pudding with electric beaters on high. Blend until all lumps are out and thoroughly combined.

Pour equal amounts in two round cake pans and bake for 26-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool at least 30 minutes.

Flip one of the cakes over on to platter or large plate. Frost only the top with chocolate frosting and place the other cake on top, round side up. Let cool another 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, put a glass or aluminum mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for 30 minutes. In the cold bowl, combine BOTH Dream Whip packets along with 1 C of milk. Blend on high for about 4 minutes or until peaks form.

 Using a butter knife, generously front the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve cold.

Banana Pudding

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My banana pudding brings all the boys to the yard. No, seriously. I challenge you to make this for any boy (or girl) you’re trying to impress and see what happens. Jaws will drop, angels will sing and you will rise to the ranks of Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. The thing I love about this recipe is the shortbread cookie crust. Traditional banana pudding calls for Nilla Wafers, but I think the Chessman cookies add a special touch and a little more substance. This recipe is not for the faint of heart, though. Unlike most of my recipes, I go for full-fat ingredients for this glorious dessert. It just comes out much richer and the consistency is way better. Let’s face it—sometimes we need to indulge, we all deserve it. If you are trying to watch your weight I suggest making individual servings in small ramekin dishes. This is a great way to trick yourself into feeling fuller and maintain some of your will power. Good luck putting the spoon down.

Ingredients

• 1 bag Pepperidge Farm Chessman Cookies ($2.50)
• 3 Bananas, thinly sliced ($.60)
• 1 cup milk ($.50)
• 2.5 oz French vanilla instant pudding powder (I just use half a 5 oz bag) ($.80)
• 7 oz sweetened condensed milk ($1.00)
• 4 oz cream cheese, softened ($.85)
• 7 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed (I use regular old Cool Whip) ($2.00)

Total: $8.25

Instructions
Line an 8×8 baking dish with a layer of cookies. Top with sliced bananas. In a mixing bowl, blend milk and pudding powder with beaters for 1 minute. In separate bowl, mix condensed milk and cream cheese. Gradually add the cream cheese mixture to the vanilla pudding. Fold in whipped topping. Add pudding mixture on top of bananas and top with another layer of chessman cookies. The cookies should all be touching each other as pictured.

Brown Sugar Snaps

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Can I give you some advice? None of which has to do with cookies.

1) Never laugh if someone asks you on a date. They will mistake your “nervous/ I’m about to explode with excitement/ awkward” laugh for being incredibly rude. They won’t understand that you’re actually flattered.

2) Don’t trust your car when it says you have 10 miles worth of gas left. It is lying. You really have two. Sigh…

3) NEVER. I repeat NEVER wash your jeans with your passport in the back pocket. Especially if you plan on traveling internationally anytime soon. You might be royally screwed.

I’m happy I could share these words of wisdom with you. I love you for reading my blog, and life is really to short and beautiful to make these mistakes.

Can you tell what kind of week I’ve had so far? It’s only Tuesday and I’m exhausted. There is one thing that could solve my Tuesday blues: cookies. I raided my pantry and to my horror discovered that I am completely out of sugar. It’s been raining  in DC and the last thing I wanted to do was go out to buy a bag. One thing I do have, and lots of it, is brown sugar. I also have an incredibly random collection of spices– most of which I rarely use.

I have to admit that I’m not the best baker in the world. I wish I was blessed with this culinary skill, but it’s always felt a little too scientific to me. I get worked up when my cake is lopsided, my brownies don’t rise, or if the cookies are dry. I think I’m improving, though and I’ve learned a few tricks of trade to ensure consistency and a successful result.With that said, these cookies turned out awesome– the ratio of sugar to spice is perfect. They sort of taste like chocolate chip cookies sans chocolate, plus  a touch of spice that isn’t completely obvious with the first bite. I think these would also taste good if you added some toffee chunks. Next time!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour ($.25)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda ($.05)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon ($.03)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger ($.05)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (not melted) ($.50)
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar ($.50)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ($.10)
  • 1 egg ($.20)

Total: $1.68

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl. blend the softened butter and brown sugar. Mix for 2 minutes until smooth and well combined. Add in vanilla and egg, mix well.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar/ egg mixture and stir until well combined and you can no longer see the flour. Put the dough in freezer for 5-10 minutes so the dough can firm up.

Roll the dough into one inch balls and place two inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes and let cool on wire rack.