Gingerbread Cheesecake Dip

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Well, Christmas season is definitely here! My house is decorated, it snowed over the weekend, and Christmas party season is in full swing. In our winters here in Virginia so far, I’ve only seen us get 2 “snows” per year max, so maybe we can get away with this being our only snow for the season?!? (probably wishful thinking)

This dip is a sweet appetizer/dessert that I made to take over to my husband’s casual work Christmas party. This party is one of those where your meal is made up of different appetizers and dips people have brought over. I wanted something that I could make easily and would travel well (read – I don’t have to worry about keeping it hot getting it there), so this gingerbread cheesecake dip from Food, Folks, and Fun fit the bill. I’m not joking when I say you could have this ready to go in 10-15 minutes (with washing the mixer), and I know quick and easy is always appreciated this time of year. Just be sure to set out your cream cheese as it will mix much easier at room temperature!

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As far as the spices go, I noticed last minute that I didn’t have any ground ginger, so I subbed in pumpkin pie spice (which isn’t exactly the same but gets the same idea). Because of that swap, I decreased the amount of cinnamon I used down to 1/2 teaspoon.

To serve, I set out honey graham crackers and cinnamon-sugar pita chips, but you could certainly use other dippers such as vanilla wafers, gingerbread crisps, or even fruit such as apples or grapes. I topped it with some seasonal sprinkles to add some color, but this is entirely optional. As the original author said, if you are prepping this significantly ahead of time, wait until just before serving to add the sprinkles. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Gingerbread Cheesecake Dip
Adapted from Food, Folks, and Fun

Ingredients:
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 oz (1/2 pkg) of whipped cream
Dippers: graham crackers, cinnamon-sugar pita chips, cookie wafers, apples, etc.
Optional: seasonal sprinkles

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the brown and powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in the molasses and spices and lastly add and mix in the whipped cream. Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. If not planning to serve it immediately, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Add sprinkles, if desired, immediately before serving.

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Club: Baked – Speculaas

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This week’s Club: Baked recipe was co-posted with our sister group, Baked Sunday Mornings. Both of our groups are baking through the book, Baked Explorations, but we are typically on different schedules as the Sunday morning group was established before we began our trip through the book. For fun, this time we decided to join-up on a recipe. More people baking together at one time. Should be fun. I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s posts! As described in the book, these cookies came together really easily for me. I mixed them up before leaving the house to run some errands, and they were ready to roll out and bake when I got back. My dough was a little sticky when rolling it out, but that is the only (minor) complaint that I had. 
speculaas - rolling out dough
These cookies certainly end up on the crunchy side of things. I feel like mine were a little soft when I took them out of the oven, but the y set-up quite a bit as they cool. From the description of the cookies, it sounds like they are meant to be a crunchier cookie. I typically am a chewy cookie gal, but I found myself going back for these again and again. They were right up my husband’s alley as he likes his cookies crunchy. I can’t write this post without mentioning my beetle cookie cutter. I do actually drive a Beetle and received this cookie cutter as a gift from a 7-yr old family friend. Too cute!
speculaa in car shape
These cookies certainly have that “holiday” type flavor and seem like they would keep really well for some time (not that I would know as ours didn’t last very long). Something that I will definitely have to keep in mind for future holiday cookie plates. Be sure to check out the Club: Baked page to see the post from both our group and the Baked Sunday Mornings group. Should be a great round-up!

Christmas Soup Series: White Chicken Chili

Last but not least, I’m adding white chicken chili into the mix. This is one of those recipes where I’m sure everyone has their own little variation, but no matter how you make it, it always turns out awesome! This recipe is my mom’s, and it has made an appearance more than once on Christmas Eve. 

I feel like I say this a lot, but I really, really like this soup. We made a double batch of it last Friday for the savory part of a cookie exchange party, so my husband and I have been enjoying the leftovers all week. It literally is one of those things that I could eat everyday and not become tired of it. The recipe for this soup does call for a 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I have successfully swapped lower fat products including half and half and whole milk. If you are looking to try this, keep in mind that these items will “thin out” the soup a little bit more than the cream and may clump easier if they get too hot in the soup. If you are making it in the crockpot, be sure not to add any of the dairy products until about 30 minutes before you plan to serve the soup or they may curdle. A bonus with the crockpot is that your house will smell so good when you come home!

This is definitely a recipe that will allow for some tailoring, so if something sounds like it would go well in here, try it! I know I’ll be enjoying my last bowl tomorrow. Merry Christmas everyone!

(Printable Recipe)

White Chicken Chili
From Mom

Ingredients:
1 lb. cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 Tbsp. oil (only if cooking in stockpot)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2-3 cans (14.5 oz each) white beans (navy beans), rinsed and drained
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cans (4oz) chopped green chiles
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1-1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

If cooking in a stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic powder and saute until the onion is translucent. Add beans, broth, chiles, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and heavy cream. 

Crockpot directions: Add all ingredients except the sour cream and heavy cream to the crockpot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Add the sour cream and heavy cream about 30 minutes before serving to allow the soup to re-warm after the addition.

Christmas Soup Series: Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Day 2 of soups for Christmas. This is one of the other recipes that my brother made last week while he was visiting. It is a little similar to this soup recipe that I posted last year in that it contains both sausage and red wine, but the soups are distinct enough that I am considering them different. 

Of all the things on my blog, my soups are probably one of the things that we “repeat” the most at home. You other bloggers know what I am talking about. The “are we having something new again for dinner” syndrome. This soup is definitely up with the others in flavor, and that is considering that we really like all of the soups posted here. Given the fact that my brother served us this during the same meal as the chocolate-chip toffee cheesecake, I would certainly say we had a great meal!

Similar to the minestrone, the pasta in this soup will soak up some of the liquid as it sits. Just add extra broth to your preference when you reheat it. This one also calls for red wine, but it can be substituted for the beef broth if you prefer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 lb. sweet Italian chicken/turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 can (14.5) oz. diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups quartered zucchini
8 oz. fresh whole wheat tortellini 
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage, crumbling as you cook it. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain the fat.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion begins to soften. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Skim fat from the soup if necessary (should be very little if you use chicken/turkey sausage). Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Cook the sausage as directed. Place all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook tortellini separately on the stove according to package directions and add just before serving. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Christmas Soup Series: Jamie’s Minestrone

Growing up we had quite a few Christmas traditions. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we’d get up early to grab donuts before heading to the Christmas tree farm to pick out/cut down our tree. We also had a paper nativity scene that doubled as an Advent calendar. My brother and I would alternate days of putting up each character, often squabbling over who would get to put the star up over the manger on Christmas Eve.

One of the other traditions that I still continue – soup on Christmas Eve. The kind has changed over the years (there was a time when I would have a can of Campbell’s chicken and stars because the rest of the family was having oyster stew…), but the idea of soup has stayed constant. We’ve done stews, chili, homemade chicken noodle, and even played with the idea of bread bowls, but it’s always homemade and always great! Plus, it is low stress as you can put it in a crockpot and forget about it. Bonus that it leaves room for Christmas cookies 🙂

As I don’t have too many Christmas cookie recipes to share with you this year, I thought I would let you in on our little tradition and offer up a few soup recipes leading up to Christmas Eve. 

The first soup is a classic – minestrone. I have made this recipe a couple of times, and I really enjoy it as it is everything a minestrone soup should be: great flavor and loaded with vegetables. The recipe calls for red wine. If you are worried about including alcohol, it could certainly be replaced with some additional broth, however if you can, I would strongly suggest you include it. I love the flavor red wine adds to soups. One thing to note is that the pasta will continue to soak up the liquid (even when fully cooked), so cook it al dente and only add it a few minutes before serving. This is especially important if you are making the soup in a crockpot! For the leftovers in this case, I have just been adding a little bit more broth as needed when I heat it up. 

Feel free to join in if you want. It’s a fun tradition to start! Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Jamie’s Minestrone
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 can (14.5oz) low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
2 cups baby spinach
3 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup small whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken broth, water, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If using, add red wine. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

Cook pasta separately until al dente according to package directions. Drain and add to soup. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Follow the first step through cooking the onions. Add the sauteed onions and garlic to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients except the pasta, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook the pasta until al dente as directed above and add to the crockpot with the spinach just before serving. The heat will wilt the spinach. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Club: Baked – Buckeyes

My mom called the other day mentioning that she saw a girl wearing a shirt saying, “Once a Husker, always a Husker.” She really wanted to get one for me since we have moved away from Nebraska, but the store had already sold out of them by the time she found it. Being a “true Husker girl” I have never made nor tried a Buckeye candy, but I decided to embrace my full B1G 10 spirit and give these a shot (j/k) 🙂

Named after an opposing mascot or not, these little candies crafted of peanut butter and chocolate are not something to pass up. Karen from Karen’s Cookies Cakes & More is hosting this week’s Club: Baked recipe, and as usual, I had a lot of fun making something that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen. 

They were really simple to make. Mix together the peanut butter part. Melt the chocolate. Dip, set, and eat. As we were forewarned in the book, the peanut butter mixture was a little dry, but I was able to push it into a ball with my hands pretty easily. The hardest part about these for me proved to be waiting for the chocolate to set. I moved a few of them too soon, but it was nothing a quick set in the refrigerator couldn’t fix. I could see these being a great recipe for when you need something quickly but still want it to be a hit. Just proves it is hard to go wrong with that classic peanut butter-chocolate combination.

Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to see the results for the other bloggers. I am thinking this will be a delicious week for everyone involved!

It’s Christmas: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope that all of you have gotten to spend some wonderful time with your families this holiday season!  This is the last installment of my countdown to Christmas, so I also hope that you’ve all been able to enjoy some sweet treats this season. Tis the season for baking =)

These cookies are from The Way the Cookie Crumbles and they caught my eye because of the Oreos on the outside. The recipe has just a few ingredients, and leaves out an egg making it an easy thing to throw together if you’re getting low on baking ingredients. Without the egg, the final cookie ends up being more shortbready than cheesecake-like. This may or may not be a result of my baking as I  had a little bit of trouble deciding when the cookies were done baking. In the end, I went for the middle of the baking interval at 9 minutes. Regardless, the end result is definitely good. 

 Merry Christmas again and Happy New Year! 

(Printable Recipe)

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
From The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour (I ended up adding at least 1/4 c. more)
1/2 c. mini-chocolate chips
1 c. Oreo crumbs (about 8 cookies)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat in the butter, cream cheese, and salt on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour and mix on low until completely combined. If needed, add a little bit of extra flour until the dough can be rolled into balls. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls of dough into the Oreo cookie crumbs and set on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges start to brown and the tops are set. Cool for a minute or two on the sheets, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Final Countdown to Christmas #5: Pomegranate White Chocoalte Chip Cookies

 An early Merry Christmas to all of you! I can’t believe it’s already Christmas Eve. This is the second cookie recipe this year that I made off of Maria’s blog, Two Peas and Their Pod. This recipe caught my eye because of the pomegranate arils. My husband loves pomegranates, however I never would have thought to add them to cookies on my own.  The contrast of the red arils with the white chocolate chips certainly make them look festive!

The baking process for these cookies is a little bit more complicated. Like Maria, I waited until after rolling the dough into balls to add the pomegranate arils. If you’ve never had a pomegranate before, the arils are filled with juice and break really easily, so I found it easier to add them individually rather than mixing them into the dough really really carefully. My only complaint with these is that after a day or so the pomegranate arils begin to shrivel, so they may be best eaten rather quickly after baking. 

Happy holidays to all! I’ll be back again tomorrow with my last Christmas recipe!

(Printable Recipe)

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. pomegranate arils

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. 

Stir in the oats and white chocolate chips. Make dough balls with about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie. Tuck about 6-8 pomegranate arils into each ball of dough. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until they just begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Yield: About 2-1/2 dozen cookies

Final Countdown to Christmas #4: Dad’s Milk Chocolate Fudge

This is another one of those recipes that has endured years and years of Christmases in our family, however this one has always been my Dad’s thing. I can remember having to stand on a step-stool in order to see over the edge of the stove so that I could help. 

In the years since my husband has been around (which is actually quite a few Christmases in itself!), it has become one of his favorite Christmas treats. I can’t blame him. Out of all the different kinds of fudge that I’ve tried, this one is definitely my favorite. We had some trouble finding marshmallow creme this year and actually drove around to three different grocery stores to find it. The fudge is worth it. 

The recipe that we use is based of the fantasy fudge recipe that is listed on the back of the container of Kraft marshmallow creme. Our main swap is that we always use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet or dark chips, and that is exactly the reason that I love it so much. The other modification is in cooking time. We never use a candy thermometer, so we usually just cook it for 5-6 minutes instead of the 4 listed on the can. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Dad’s Milk Chocolate Fudge
Adapted from Kraft Fantasy Fudge

Ingredients:
3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) butter
3 c. sugar
2/3 c. (5oz can) evaporated milk
1 (12oz) pkg. milk chocolate chips
1 (7oz) jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Grease a 9×13-inch pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, and evaporated milk in a 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 5-6 minutes while continuing to stir. Remove from the heat and stir in the marshmallow creme and chocolate chips. Mix in the vanilla.

Pour into the prepared pan. Cool and cut into squares.

Final Countdown to Christmas #3: Soft Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

 Whew… another day, another recipe. Are you getting excited for Christmas yet. We’re at T-3 days! 

When I was putting together my Christmas cookie list, I knew that I wanted some kind of gingersnap/spice cookie. I’m a sucker for soft, chewy cookies, and there are lots of gingersnap recipes that give you that nice, big, chewy cookie. I had been eying a couple of recipes where you dip half the cookie in white chocolate or almond bark when I saw these treats on Maria’s blog Two Peas and Their Pod. Mixing the chips into the batter seemed perfect – you’d get bits of white chocolate throughout the cookie rather than just on one half and adding the chips to the dough would be much simpler than dipping each cookie. I was sold.

The resulting cookies that I made are everything that I thought they’d be. They are definitely soft and flavorful, and I think the bits of white chocolate hanging out in the darker cookie are kind of pretty. My mom has already declared them as her favorite Christmas treat that we’ve made this year, so try them out!

(Printable Recipe)

Soft Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
From Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients:
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. molasses
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 large eggs
3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 c. white chocolate chips
granulated sugar for coating cookie dough balls

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the molasses, canola oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix well until combined. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until smooth. Slowly add the flour and mix until just combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips. 

Scoop the dough into balls and roll in in granulated sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. The cookies will still be soft. Remove from the oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 

Yield: About 50 cookies